Gillespie Proved Stealing Home Can Pay Off 0

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — There is nothing more exciting in baseball than the successful steal of home.

The absolute best system at stealing home was developed by the late Mike Gillespie.

His teams were successful 50 out of 52 times.

Gillespie died in July of 2020 at the age of 80 from respiratory complications.

He coached on the NCAA Division I level for 31 years with an overall 1,156-720-2 record with stops at the University of Southern California (20 years) and his final 11 years as the skipper at U.C. Irvine.

Counting his 16 years as a junior college coach at College of The Canyons, he led teams to 1,588 wins over 47 years.

Nobody will ever forget the 1998 College World Series championship game when he coached Southern California against Arizona State.

Incredibly, Gillespie called a triple steal in the top of the seventh inning with USC clinging to an 11-8 lead with two outs.

Trojan batter Wes Rachels stepped to the plate and was 4-for-4 going into that at-bat with 5 RBI.

Nobody in the world expected it at the time which made it so effective.

On the first pitch from ASU righthander Chad Pennington, who was in the full windup position, Morgan Ensberg of the Trojans sprinted from the third base bag halfway down the line in an attempt to get the pitcher to balk.

But Pennington wouldn’t bite as the pitch was delivered to Rachels.

Two more pitches were recorded with Ensberg sprinting halfway down the third base line each time.

With a 1-2 count and Pennington not paying much attention to Ensberg because of the prior three bluffs and the unlikely chance of him actually stealing home, the USC runner began an all-out sprint to the plate.

The ball was thrown with Ensberg nearly 3/4s down the line.

Sun Devil catcher Greg Halvorson caught the ball and dove forward in an attempt to tag out the runner who slid feet first across home.

Ensberg barely beat the tag by inches in one of the most daring base running moves in CWS history as the other two runners advanced.

On the next pitch, Rachels lined a base hit to left, scoring two more runs as USC went on to win its 12th national title in baseball, 21-14 over ASU.

I interviewed Gillespie several months after that dramatic steal of home, and he explained in detail his system of making the steal of home work so successfully in his career.

To read more of this story and Mike Gillespie’s system of stealing home, purchase the Oct. 1, 2023 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.