Excepting a career season in 1995, persistent back and leg problems prevented Sanders from ever achieving his potential as a hitter. During his seven years with the Cincinnati Reds, he developed a reputation for refusing to play through injuries that other players might have ignored. Tired of the whispering behind his back, the speedy outfielder bounced around the league for a few years, providing leadoff spark for the 1999 San Diego Padres, the 2000 Atlanta Braves, and the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks. Feeling comfortable at Arizona’s Bank One Ballpark, Sanders produced his first thirty-plus homer season while skillfully manning all three outfield positions.
When he got on base, Sanders was a threat to steal, amassing 36 thefts with the Padres in 1999. In particular, he looked forward to swiping a base with Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson on the mound. “I knew with that type of delivery,” said Sanders, “I could go on his first move.” Of course, in order to steal, he had to get on base. After striking out in all four at-bats in his first game against Johnson, he insisted, “I knew if I ever got on, I had a chance to steal.”