Sorry I’m a day late with this one….
Congrats to the newest members of baseball’s Hall of Fame, Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice.
Jim Rice’s call to Cooperstown came much later than it should have. I never saw Rice as a player, but according to the things I’ve read and heard, he was as dominate and intimidating of a hitter as the late 70’s and early 80’s saw. And during his prime from 1977-1979, Rice averaged .320, with 41 Home Runs and 128 RBI’s. Jaw dropping numbers for an era where 20 home runs was considered to be a powerful season.
As for Rickey Henderson, what else can you say about a 10 time all-star, who is the all time leader in stolen bases (including a season with 130 stolen bases), and the all time leader in runs scored. Rickey also leads the all-time list in lead-off home runs. Rickey was as exciting of a player as baseball has ever seen, but Rickey’s behavior off the field (and sometimes on it) that was the sort of things that legends are made of (in a funny- HA HA way).
A friend of mine sent me this great email this morning, that really captures the true persona of Rickey Henderson. Thank you Jon for this:
- Rickey the diplomat: When Rickey broke Lou Brock’s all-time Stolen Base record, Brock had given up his own time to come to the game and stand next to Rickey for the presentation. Rickey addressed the crowd: “Lou Brock was a great base stealer, but today, I am the greatest of all-time.”
- Rickey, friend to the little people: With the Mets in 1999, Rickey asked a teammate why there were so many reporters around and he was told the team had fired Tom Robson. “Who’s he?” Rickey replied Robson was the Mets hitting coach.
- Rickey the Wizard of Wall St. The A’s accounting department was in a panic because their books were off by a million bucks. The source of the discrepancy was Rickey, who had taken a $1 million bonus check and instead of cashing it, framed it.
- Rickey the Wizard of Wall St. Part II: He once held onto a bonus check rather than cash it because he was “waiting for the rates to go up.”
- Rickey the geographer: He once asked a teammate how long it would take to drive to the Dominican Republic.
- Rickey the geography, Part II: His apartment had a “view of the Entire State Building.”
- Third person Rickey: He once left Padres GM Kevin Towers this voicemail: “This is Rickey calling on behalf of Rickey. Rickey wants to play baseball.”
- Rickey the linguist: When he was looking for a seat on the Padres bus, Steve Finley said “You can sit anywhere you want. You’ve got tenure.” To which Rickey replied “Ten years? Ricky’s been playing at least 16, 17 years.”
- Classy Rickey: When he broke Ty Cobb’s All Time Runs Scored record on a home run, he took full minute to round the bases then slid home.
- Rickey the mathematician: When Ken Caminiti said that 50% of ballplayers were juicing, Rickey said “Well, Rickey’s not one of them, so that’s 49 percent right there.”
- Gracious Rickey: At the end of his days with the Sox, Tom Werner offered him a car as a going away present and Rickey said he wanted John Henry’s Mercedes. Not the same make and model. He wanted John Henry’s car. So the team presented him with a red Thunderbird and when he saw it Rickey said “Who’s ugly car is on the field?”
- My all time favorite Rickey story that turns out not to be true even though I wish it was: Legend has it that when he was with the Mets, Rickey asked John Olerud why he wears a helmet in the field and Olerud explained how he had had an aneurysm and had to as a precaution. “Man,” Rickey supposedly said, “I was with Toronto last year and we had a guy with the same thing!” And Olerud said “That would be me.” Too bad both men deny it ever happened.
- But a true story of Rickey, great teammate: His locker was next to Billy Beane’s, but Beane got sent down to the minors. After a few months, Beane got called back up to the bigs. Six weeks after his call up Rickey said “Hey, man, where have you been? Haven’t seen you in awhile.”
Regardless, Rickey was still one of the all time greats. And as ESPN’s Jason Stark wrote, something is to be said of the fact that baseball’s all time leader in stolen bases and runs scored is NOT an unanimous decision. How can one say that Rickey doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall of Fame when you’re the all time leader in two of the important categories?