On April 26th, as the stunned Fenway Park crowd looked on, Jacoby Ellsbury raced toward home plate. The Boston Red Sox fans suddenly realized that they were witnessing Boston's centerfielder attempting one of the most exciting plays in baseball. He was trying to steal home against the New York Yankees.
Andy Pettitte, the Yankees pitcher, didn't see Ellsbury sprinting for home plate. He pitched the ball to catcher Jorge Posada, but Ellsbury was too fast. He slid in safely under Posada's tag. Stealing home is very, very rare. Ellsbury is the first player to successfully steal home plate this season and the first Red Sox player to do it since 1994.
While lots of players steal second base or third base every day, it is far more difficult to steal home. Because the pitcher throws the ball to home plate on every pitch, the runner on third has to be fast enough to beat the pitch to the plate. If he's even half a step too slow, the catcher will easily tag him out. Ellsbury is one of the fastest players in baseball, which is one of the reasons why Boston Manager, Terry Francona, told him to steal home. He also noticed that Pettitte wasn't paying attention to Ellsbury, he was on third base. Ellsbury was able to get a head start because Pettitte didn't expect him to steal home. He caught just about everybody by surprise.
One of the most exciting plays in baseball history happened when Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers stole home against the Yankees in the 1955 World Series. There is a very famous picture of Robinson sliding in safely under the tag from Yankee catcher, Yogi Berra. Robinson's steal of home was especially daring because it took place in such a big game. Every play during the World Series is important, and if Robinson had been out at home the Dodgers would have been at a huge disadvantage.
Ellsbury's play was also made in an important game. The Red Sox and Yankees are arch-rivals, and always compete against each other to win the American League East Division Championship. Ellsbury helped the Red Sox win the game 4-1, which could help Boston win the division as the season goes along. Even though this game took place in late April during a long season, Division rivalry games always end up meaning a lot in the end.
More than anything, though, Ellsbury's steal of home gave baseball fans something to cheer about. Players don't steal home very often. Ellsbury's play just goes to show that in baseball, anything can happen in any game.
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