By Jon Weisman
Five weeks ago, A.J. Ellis acknowledged, not without some pride, that he knew he was of the all-time leaders in MLB history for most times on base without a steal in his career.
Today, history broke.
With two out in the bottom of the second inning today against Tampa Bay, the Dodgers had Joc Pederson on third base and Ellis on first. Starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy — hitless in 2016 — was at the plate with a 1-2 count, and the Rays were no doubt already contemplating the top of the third … when Ellis surprisingly took off.
Rays catcher Luke Maile fired to second, but Ellis had such a good jump that even at age 35, he looked like he would be safe. But eliminating all doubt, Maile’s throw eluded shortstop Brad Miller and went into center field, not only leaving Ellis proudly at second base but allowing Pederson to score the game’s first run.
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The official scorer confirmed that Pederson’s run was unearned because of the error, Ellis had his first steal as a pro since July 30, 2010 with Albuquerque.
Defying his own prediction, Ellis did not hold the bag aloft, “Rickey Henderson-style,” but it was captured for posterity, according to MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick.
A.J. Ellis' first career SB was so historic that Clayton Kershaw had the actual bag authenticated and took it into the clubhouse.
— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) July 27, 2016
Postgame update: After the Dodgers’ 3-1 loss, Ellis was understandably subdued, but he allowed that he did enjoy the stolen moment.
“It was fun to laugh and fun to look in the dugout and see my teammates going nuts,” Ellis said. “I called Marvin Hudson, the second-base umpire, over and asked him if I could have the bag right then. He said, ‘No — you have to wait until in between innings.’
“It’s just fun to have memories with a bunch of guys you have shared history with for so long, so when something like that happens, it’s fun.”
— Dodger Insider (@DodgerInsider) July 27, 2016
Ellis described his reaction to getting the steal sign.
“It was just kind of one of those weird plays, he was a little bit slow to the plate, wasn’t paying much attention to me, and we’d see if we could make something happen,” Ellis said. “In all honestly, I didn’t think they’d be covering second base right there. I thought we’d just get catcher’s indifference to get to second base. He had a long leg kick — probably didn’t expect me to run. I wouldn’t have expected me to run.”