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Was last night's Rays outfield the fastest in baseball history?

Sep 2, 2010, 12:45 PM EDT

With rosters expanding yesterday the Rays called up speedster Desmond Jennings from Triple-A and started him in right field. They also had Carl Crawford in left field and B.J. Upton in center field, which has me wondering whether it could have been the fastest outfield in baseball history.
I’m not sure exactly how to measure such a thing, but I do know that it’d be tough to find three players with more collective speed than Crawford, Upton, and Jennings, let alone three speedier guys who all started together in the same outfield.
Crawford has the most triples (100) and second-most steals (403) in MLB since debuting in 2002, averaging 12 three-baggers and 50 stolen bases per 150 games while also ranking as one of the best defensive left fielders of all time. Upton is a very good defensive center fielder and has the sixth-most steals in baseball since becoming a regular in 2007, swiping 44 bases in 2008, 42 last season, and 37 so far this year. And Jennings might be faster than both of them, averaging 61 steals per 150 games in the minors.
They all have 50-steal speed, they all would be plus center fielders, and they were all in the same outfield last night in Tampa Bay. And they even have a good nickname, as Rays fans have taken to calling Crawford, Upton, and Jennings the “Stallionaires.”
I went to Baseball-Reference.com in search of some other incredibly speedy outfield trios and found that since 1920 just six teams have had three outfielders with 30 or more steals. Obviously that isn’t the definitive word on speedy trios, since Jennings and other call-ups like him wouldn’t crack the list and neither would part-time outfielders, but it does provide a good starting point for the discussion.
Here are the six 30-steal outfield trios:

YEAR     TEAM           OUTFIELDERS
2001     Mariners       Ichiro Suzuki, Mike Cameron, Mark McLemore
1990     White Sox      Lance Johnson, Sammy Sosa, Ivan Calderon
1988     Astros         Kevin Bass, Billy Hatcher, Gerald Young
1985     Cardinals      Vince Coleman, Willie McGee, Andy Van Slyke
1983     Braves         Brett Butler, Claudell Washington, Dale Murphy
1983     Cardinals      Willie McGee, David Green, Lonnie Smith

Lots of “speediest outfield of all time” possibilities there, for sure, but I really think there’s a decent chance the 14,859 fans at Tropicana Field last night may have seen some history made. Aside from the six outfield trios listed above, what are some other contenders for the title? Remember, the speedsters only need to have played in the same outfield for a single game to qualify.

  1. BC - Sep 2, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    Coleman (110 SB), McGee (56) and VanSlyke (34) in 1985 was probably faster.

  2. G2 - Sep 2, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    Did Coleman, McGee and Lonnie Smith ever play in the outfield at the same time. I know they were all on the 85 cards

  3. Stephen S - Sep 2, 2010 at 1:07 PM

    The Phillies used to run out an outfield late in games of Michael Bourn, Shane Victorino and Chris Roberson (at one time a very speedy prospect).
    Also I would hesitate to use SB as a measurement of speed as baserunning ability, reading the pitcher have plenty to do with stealing bases, not just speed.

  4. Chris Fiorentino - Sep 2, 2010 at 1:10 PM

    In 1980, Lonnie Smith started in Left Field when the Bull went down for a good stretch in the middle of the season, so he was there with “Shake and Bake” McBride and Garry “Secretary of Defense” Maddox. Both those guys were around 29 or 30 I think, so their fastest days on the astroturf were behind them, but they were pretty speedy guys nonetheless.

  5. timodctimo - Sep 2, 2010 at 1:13 PM

    Well I can’t say for certain what might be the fastest, but there’s a good chance that the Mets outfield last night of Chris Carter, a broken down Carlos Beltran and slow footed prospects Lucas Duda might be the slowest.

  6. El Bravo - Sep 2, 2010 at 1:15 PM

    To add to this uncommon scenario: I can’t recall the last all African-American outfield I’ve seen either. The amount of black players in the MLB has been diminishing for awhile. To see three speedy guys in an outfield is one thing, but having all three happen to be black, makes it even rarer and cooler to see.

  7. RickyB - Sep 2, 2010 at 1:18 PM

    A relatively obscure fast outfield would have been from May 28, 1981 for the Pirates — Lee Lacy in right, Omar Moreno in center and pinch-runner extraordinaire Matt Alexander in left (came in to play in the late innings). Probably not the fastest, but fun nonetheless.

  8. doctorfunke - Sep 2, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    Jacque Jones, Torii Hunter, Shannon Stewart. Not for speed, but for their African American-ness, Bravo.

  9. Ace2000 - Sep 2, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    If I remember correctly, the Red Sox trotted out an outfield of Bill Hall, Mike Cameron, and Darnell McDonald at one point earlier this season. And someone around here made the (seemingly innocuous) observation that it was nice to see an all African American outfield in Boston, you know, given the team’s reputation and history. Racial tension ensued in the comments section.

  10. El Bravo - Sep 2, 2010 at 1:37 PM

    Right on. Good catch. Still not a common occurrence but that certainly is an occurrence.

  11. El Bravo - Sep 2, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    Now that’s just downright astonishing if there were 3 African-Americans on the Red Sox at all! Ha, just kidding, kinda…

  12. El Bravo - Sep 2, 2010 at 1:41 PM

    Racial tension is an American trait, why am I not surprised it occasionally shows up on HBT.

  13. Boones19 - Sep 2, 2010 at 1:46 PM

    In 2007 the Mets had Endy Chavez (LF) Beltran (CF) and Carlos Gomez (RF)

  14. doctorfunke - Sep 2, 2010 at 1:49 PM

    Could happen again this year for the Twins if they bring up Jacque for September. Young-Span-Jones.

  15. doctorfunke - Sep 2, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    Doesn’t count if you ask Torii Hunter.

  16. D-Luxxx - Sep 2, 2010 at 2:07 PM

    Prior to Stewart was Jones, Hunter and Lawton, AKA the Soul Patrol. Good stuff.

  17. gerryb323 - Sep 2, 2010 at 2:26 PM

    Deion Sanders, Ron Gant, Otis Nixon shared an outfield for the 1991 Braves on at least one occasion (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/LAN/LAN199107070.shtml)

  18. gerryb323 - Sep 2, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    Deion Sanders, Otis Nixon and Ron Gant shared an outfield for the ’91 Braves

  19. gerryb323 - Sep 2, 2010 at 2:34 PM

    Also, Otis Nixon, Tim Raines and Marquis Grissom played together in the same outfield for the ’90 Expos

  20. gerryb323 - Sep 2, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    I clearly have too much free time….sorry for the double post. One last one, Willie Harris, Willy Tavares and Niger Morgan shared the outfield this year for the Nats.

  21. Kung - Sep 2, 2010 at 4:52 PM

    It’s true SB shouldn’t be used to rate overall speed, but I think all three guys here probably rate 70-80 on the speed scale, so in this case, it’s OK.

  22. Son of Shane Mack - Sep 3, 2010 at 2:15 AM

    Twins at some point last year – Delmon, Cuddyer, and Kubel – one of the slower outfields of recent memory. Delmon might have some foot speed – at least this year – but that doesn’t seem to always help out in the field.

  23. ShoelesJoe - Sep 3, 2010 at 4:24 AM

    Several times this year the Orioles have featured an outfield of Felix Pie, Adam Jones, and Corey Patterson.
    Also, the O’s starting outfield opening day 1989 was 24 year old Steve Finley, 25 year old Brady Anderson, and 26 year old Mike Devereaux. Didn’t steal a lot of bases (what Oriole team does?), but they covered more ground than Patton’s 3rd Army.

  24. pwt3d - Sep 3, 2010 at 9:32 AM

    Next year the Indians will be pretty good, Brantley, Sizemore, Choo

  25. RickB - Sep 3, 2010 at 12:10 PM

    The Cubs in the early ’50s had Hank Sauer and Ralph Kiner as their corner outfielders…I forget who the CF was, but he had a lot of ground to cover.

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