2011 Hall Of Legends Inductee: Vince Coleman

The week of Thanksgiving brings a time for all of us to be thankful for family, friends, health, any a myriad of other things that each of us finds important. Here at I-70 Baseball, we take this time to show some thanks to some players that spent some time wearing both of the uniforms of our two teams, the Cardinals and Royals.

The requirements are that simple: the inducted player had to play for both the Cardinals and Royals in his career. From there, it is pure judgement of I-70 Baseball to say they deserve enshrinement in our “Hall Of Legends”. This year we induct five new legends to join the inaugural group of five from last season. The original five inductees were manager Whitey Herzog, pitchers Dan Quisenberry and Danny Jackson, outfielder Reggie Sanders, and catcher Darrell Porter.

The first inductee for 2011 is Vince Coleman.

Coleman was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982 and it did not take long for him to race (pun intended) onto the scene at the big league level. The speedy outfielder was built for the Whiteyball area of the St. Louis Cardinals and the team quickly had him in the leadoff role as the 1985 season got underway.

That rookie year was not perfect by any means, but the young man managed to reach base at a .320 clip while hitting .267. It was what he did when he was on base that captured the focus of fans across the nation. Coleman successfully stole 110 bases that year while also being caught 25 times, leading the league in both categories and capturing the Rookie Of The Year Award (later named the Jackie Robinson Award in 1987) in the National League that season. His 110 steals would fall just short of Cardinal legend Lou Brock‘s national league record of 118, but would establish the record that still stands today of steals by a rookie.

The dreaded sophomore slump would gRip Coleman‘s batting average and on base percentage, dropping the former to .232 and the latter to .301. As the old saying toes, however, speed doesn’t slump. Despite his drop in ability to reach base safely, he would lead the league again in stolen bases, this time with 107. He would also cut down the amount of times he was caught on the bases, being thrown out a paltry 14 times over the course of the season.

Coleman’s third year in the majors wearing the birds on the bat would see him achieve another etching in the record books. In arguably the most successful seasons of his career, Coleman would raise his batting average to .289 and his on base percentage to .363. The batting average would eventually prove to be the second best average Coleman would ever post and his on base percentage would rank as his best of his 13 year career. His increased time spent on the base paths would yield 109 stolen bases, the first player in history to steal 100 or more bases for three consecutive season.

As the 1988 season developed, Coleman would find himself once again atop the league in stolen bases, this time for the fourth consecutive season. He would fail to top 100 stolen bases for the first time in his career, swiping just 81 while being caught 27 times. Coleman would make the first of his two career all star appearances in that year’s mid summer classic. His production would slip again in 1989, falling to just 65 stolen bases, which was still good enough to lead the league. He would make is final appearance in the All Star Game that year. The remarkable thing happened for Coleman was a record that started in 1988 and was completed in 1989.

In the top of the sixth inning of a contest between the Cubs and the Cardinals in Chicago on September 18, Vince Coleman would swipe second base off of Greg Maddux and Jody Davis with Jose Oquendo at the plate. It led to the Cardinals’ fourth run of the contest, a game they would eventually win 5-4. Fast forward to July 26, 1989 as the Cubs would meet the Cardinals in St. Louis. In a game once again won by the Cardinals, Coleman would steal second base in the bottom of the third off of Cubs hurler Rick Sutcliffe and catcher Joe Giradi. The following game, played on July 28 in Montreal, Coleman would be thrown out in the fourth inning attempting to steal second base off of Pascual Perez and cather Nelson Santovenia. It would bring to end a treak of 50 straight stolen bases by Coleman, another record that is still standing today.

Coleman would spend his final season in St. Louis in 1990, stealing 77 bases and leading the league for the final time in his career, the sixth consecutive time. He would post his highest batting average of his career at .292 before departing the city via free agency to head to the bright lights of New York City to join the Mets.

Three injury ridden years in New York would come to a close after the 1993 season when Coleman was traded back into the midwest to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Kevin McReynolds. Coleman’s health would rebound in 1994 as he put together a decent season for the Royals, stealing 50 bases. He would steal another 26 bases in a Royals uniform the following season before being dealt to the Seattle Mariners for the stretch run of 1995.

Coleman would steal 625 bases combined for the I-70 franchises, winning the Rookie Of The Year Award and appearing in two all star games. He “leads-off” the 2011 selections for the Hall Of Legends.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Follow him on Twitter here.

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