Tuesday, January 13, 2009


One of my prize possessions (technically my brother's possession, but I claim half ownership) is a 1980 Topps Rickey Henderson rookie card.

I've kept it as a financial safety net, so if things ever get too tough I could sell it on eBay and retire with the proceeds. But given the current baseball card market, the best I could do with the proceeds is treat myself to a round of golf at Willow Park (after 3pm on a weekday).

That might change now, because Rickey's a Hall Of Famer. Rickey was a near unanimous selection, listed on 511 of the 538 ballots (94.8%), but I wonder how the 27 voters who didn't select him can justify keeping out the all-time leader in runs scored (2295) and stolen bases (1406), a player with 3000 hits (3055) and 2907 walks (second to BB). With stats like that it should have been the easiest selection ever.

But all those numbers don't compare to the thrill of actually watching Rickey play in his prime. One of my thrills as a baseball fan was sitting on the first base stands watching Rickey take his crouched lead off first with his fingers twitching, just knowing that he was going to steal second on the next pitch. And all those home runs to lead off games (81 in his career).

Plus he was a genuine "character", my generation's Yogi Berra. There are tons of Rickey stories, but this is my favorite.
In 1996, Henderson’s first season with San Diego, he boarded the team bus and was looking for a seat. Steve Finley said, “Sit wherever you want. You have tenure in this league” Rickey looked at Finley and said, “Ten years? Rickey has 17 years in this league!”

There's also the Olerud story that apparently never happened.
A few weeks into Henderson’s stint with the Mariners, he walked up to John Olerud at the batting cage and asked him why he wore a batting helmet in the field. Olerud explained that he had an aneurysm at nine years old and he wore the helmet for protection. Henderson said, “Yeah, I played with a guy in Toronto that had the same thing.” Olerud said, “That was me, Rickey.”

Congratulations to the greatest Athletic ever. Go Rickey!

1 comment:

B said...

It was great hear some of the old broadcasts with Lon Simmons and Bill King describing Rickey stealing bases -- what a thrill!
I like the story of Rickey thinking the "take off" sign meant "take off for the next base". Or the time LaRussa pronounced him "mentally unavailable to play."
Rickey was the best.
Who the hell voted for Jay Bell!?