I’d always thought that Rickey Henderson held the AL rookie stolen-base record… until it was pointed out to me that John Cangelosi broke the AL mark in his rookie season in 1986.
I was thinking, “What? Didn’t Rickey Henderson steal 100 bases in his rookie year?” Well, the man they call the “Man of Steal” did swipe 100 bases in 1980, but that was his second big-league season (or first full season)… as he’d already exceeded his rookie limits the year before by playing in 89 games.
So, John Cangelosi, a man who finished his career with 154 stolen bases, at one point held the AL rookie stolen-base record? Yes, that’s right.
And I wrote a book about Cangelosi and his inspirational baseball career, and that book came out late last week.
Talk about an inspirational story. Listed as 5’8″, Cangelosi wasn’t even supposed to make it to pro baseball, but he got there and stayed long enough to break that aforementioned record (with 50 steals in 1986), frustrate the likes of Jack Morris and Roger Clemens and John Smoltz (and even legendary manager Sparky Anderson), and, near the end of his career, win a World Series in his hometown.
And the guy was 5’8″!
A centerfielder and switch-hitter, Cangelosi played for the White Sox, Pirates, Rangers, Mets, Astros, Marlins, and Rockies.
Now, his career statistics – 2004 at-bats, 501 hits, 12 HR, 134 RBI, .250 batting average – don’t look impressive (yes, yes, guys hit a lot more home runs in a single round during the Home Run Derby at the All-Star break), but, remember, Cangelosi was competing for playing time during an era where guy were a lot bigger and teams were looking for guys who could hit the ball out of the ballpark! At his size, Cangelosi wasn’t going to hit home runs, and his game was using his speed. In that era, the game was heading more toward… home runs, home runs, and more home runs.
And we’ve got to remember, Cangelosi competed against home-run hitters for roster spots at the height of 5’8″… Had he played in the era of social media, this guy could have achieved legendary status. But he played in the 1980s and 1990s, when not every game is available on TV. He had a good run, but didn’t get the attention that he deserved.
Well, the good news is that we can relive John Cangelosi’s career in my new book. 🙂