Pierre pays homage to Henderson at 500
It was Brent Lillibridge who reminded Juan Pierre earlier this week how the White Sox leadoff hitter sat just one stolen base away from 500 for his career. Pierre is far removed from a player who obsesses about personal statistics, but he actually knew how close he stood to that particular milestone prior to the advance warning.
“At home, they flash it on the scoreboard all the time,” said Pierre with a smile. “But I haven’t given it much thought past that.”
Pierre will be forced to ponder this accomplishment after stealing second base in the first inning of Thursday afternoon’s series finale at Comerica Park. Pierre ranks 37th on the all-time stolen base list, and actually received the base for his troubles, thanks to some fast maneuvering by clubhouse manager Vince Fresso.
There was no game stoppage or proclamation from Pierre as to how on that particular afternoon in Comerica Park, he was the greatest of all time. But in typical unselfish fashion, Pierre by-passed his individual accomplishment and paid homage to Major League Baseball’s greatest stolen base man in Rickey Henderson.
“Something like 500 stolen bases really makes you appreciate Rickey Henderson,” said Pierre, speaking on Friday evening in Baltimore of the Hall-of-Famer, who has a ridiculous career total of 1,406 stolen bases. “I’m about 1,000 away from him at 500, so what he did was unbelievable.
“The No. 1 thing is the longevity. And for stealing bases, you have to be healthy. If you are a home run hitter, a big guy, you can have a hamstring and swing and hit it out of the yard. For stealing bases, it’s about the longevity of taking that pounding, getting the jammed fingers and hands. So, it’s just remarkable what he did.”
Credit also was given by Pierre to Lou Brock, who had 938 stolen bases, and Tim Raines, who finished fifth all-time with 808.
“Stealing 800 or 900 is still a good little thing,” said Pierre with a laugh. “But Rickey set the bar. When I got to 500 and looked, it’s hard to fathom, 1,400.”
This first year with the White Sox has not been an easy one for Pierre. He was hitting just .193 at the end of April, with a .260 on-base percentage, while Scott Podsednik, the man who Pierre basically replaced, had a .400 average for the Royals.
White Sox team-wide struggles didn’t exactly cover up Pierre’s slow start. Now, the tireless worker has raised his average into the .260s and his even bumped up his RBI total to 27. It was an eventful week for Pierre, who also launched home run No. 14 of his career and broke a homerless streak of 809 at-bats.
With an implicit understanding of his job responsibilities, though, the stolen base numbers certainly mean more. Pierre also appreciated his teammates’ recognition for Thursday’s achievement.
“My job is to get on base. I don’t try to over-swing,” said Pierre, who joked how he does remember every home run he has hit. “Just keep my swing as compact as possible. I’m not a power guy. I don’t claim to be. Most of my doubles are hustle doubles. It has been like that for most of my career.
“Stolen bases aren’t the most glorious part of the game anymore, and the home run was good, but I’m a running guy so the stolen base meant more than a home run. Hopefully, I get a couple of more home runs here.”