When it came to mixing base hits and stolen bases, no player in baseball history did it better than Ty Cobb. When he retired after the 1928 season, Cobb had piled up 4,191 base hits and 892 stolen bases over his 24-year-career. These were record totals that took a half-century and two different players, Lou Brock and Pete Rose, to surpass.
Overall, Cobb won a dozen batting titles and led the league in steals six times. On five occasions he won both the batting title and base-stealing crown in the same season—an achievement rarer than winning batting’s Triple Crown or pitching a perfect game. Overall, this feat has been accomplished only a dozen times since 1901, with Pittsburgh shortstop Honus Wagner being the only player besides Cobb to do it more than once.
The last time a player led the league in both categories in the same season was 15 years ago, when Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki pulled it off.
2001 … Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle
1945 … “Snuffy” Stirnweiss, NY Yankees
1922 … George Sisler, St. Louis Browns
1917 … Ty Cobb, Detroit
1915 … Ty Cobb, Detroit
1911 … Ty Cobb, Detroit
1909 … Ty Cobb, Detroit
1907 … Ty Cobb, Detroit
1949 … Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn
1908 … Honus Wagner, Pittsburgh
1907 … Honus Wagner, Pittsbrgh
1904 … Honus Wagner, Pittsburgh
To win both titles in the same season, a player must be both a fine hitter and possess the skills that make a great base stealer a weapon on the base paths. Over the course of baseball history there have been players who were fast of foot but couldn’t figure out how to steal bases successfully (remember recent Detroiter Austin Jackson?). And there have been lightning-fast basestealers who couldn’t hit a lick (witness former Tiger Milt Cuyler for example). To do both—hit for a high average and steal a lot of bases—is a true rarity. Fast hitters like Eddie Collins, Sam Rice, Lou Brock, and most recently Rickey Henderson were never able to accomplish it.