HOF ’09: Rickey Henderson

rickey-henderson

“If my uniform doesn’t get dirty, I haven’t done anything in the baseball game.”

Rickey Henderson

In 2003 Rickey signed on with the Independent League Newark Bears, the LA Dodgers signed Henderson after the All Star break. Amazingly at the age of 44 in 30 games in Los Angeles, he hit two homers, batted .208, while stealing three bases without being caught. This guy reminds me of a player, who’d play the game for nothing, he loved it that much, definitely a throwback.

There are all kinds of stories of Rickey speaking in the third person and an account him seeing John Olerud playing firstbase with a batting helmet on, “Hey, Rickey used to have a teammate with the Mets who played first with a helmet.” Olerud then informed Rickey that they were teammates with the Mets, but that story is false. Here is a quote from Henderson that shows how much he loved to play, one month after the Oakland A’s offered to sign him up for one day in September, 2007, so Rickey could retire an Oakland A, Rickey said, “One day? I don’t want one day. I want to play again, man. I don’t want nobody’s spot… I just want to see if I deserve to be out there. If I don’t, just get rid of me, release me. And if I belong, you don’t have to pay me but the minimum — and I’ll donate every penny of that to some charity. So, how’s that hurtin’ anybody?… Don’t say goodbye for me… When I want that one day they want to give me so bad, I’ll let you know.”

Rickey Henderson was born on Christmas Day 1958 in Chicago, but moved to Oakland when his father left when Rickey was only two. His father died when Henderson was just twelve years of age. Rickey’s mother remarried and the family took on her new husband’s surname of Henderson. He was a natural lefthander, but learned to bat from the right side because he thought that was the way you were supposed to hit. Rickey married his high school sweetheart Pamela, together they have three children, Angela, Alexis, & Adriann.

He finished his career with more stolen bases (1,406) and more runs scored (2,295) than anybody in the history of the game. In a game in 1977 he stole seven bases, tying a major league record. Some say, I’d have to agree, he was the greatest leadoff man in the history of the game, certainly of his era. He had 3,055 hits & 2,190 walks, 510 doubles, and three homers shy of 300, with a lifetime batting average of .279, and an incredible .401 OBP. Three times within his first five years he stole over 100 bases, a record 130 in 1982, only two other ballplayers in the modern era stole 100 bases in a year, each only once.

Henderson started with the A’s, was traded to the NY Yankees in time to score 146 times in 1985, he’d return to play for Oakland three more times. In 13 seasons he scored over 100 runs. Despite the wear and tear running had on his body, he played an unbelievable 25 years in the major leagues. Even though he wasn’t a power hitter, he could go yard, as evidenced by his career high in home runs of 28 in both 1986 & 1990. Seven times he walked over 100 times, five more years with more than 90 bases on balls, in 1989 he walked a career high 126 times. Along with a keen eye, Henderson perfected a crouched batting style, which gave him a very small strike zone.

He was on two World Championship teams, 1989 Oakland & 1993 Toronto, ironically both times he was traded midseason. Ten times he was an All Star, three times he won Silver Slugger Awards, once he won a Gold Glove, in 1990 he was the American League MVP, and in 1999 at the age of 40 he was named NL Comeback Player of the Year. He hit a record high 81 leadoff home runs.

Here’s proof as to how great of a ballplayer Rickey Henderson was, statistician Bill James was quoted as saying, “If you could split him in two, you’d have two Hall of Famers.”

Hall of Fame

 

Hall of Very Good

  Why is he even on the Ballot?

 

While we wait for January 12 ballot results, The Baseball Zealot will be profiling those players who are on the 2009 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot.  Read the rest the of the profiles.

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