This coming weekend one of the most anticipated Hall of Fame acceptance speeches in recent memory is expected to be given by the always entertaining Rickey Henderson, the greatest leadoff hitter in baseball since Ty Cobb decided to hang up his spikes (Jim Rice will also be officially inducted). Before I delve into the numbers, I thought I would share a few anecdotal tidbits about Henderson, one of the great “characters” in the game.
* Henderson almost always, and I mean always, referred to himself in the third person with statements like ‘Rickey was really good tonight’ or “Rickey is going to take tomorrow off, his body is sore.’ Think I’m making it up? Hardly. Former A’s trainer Barry Weinberg said this. “Sometimes he’d say I think I might be sore tomorrow.” Mike Gallego would say, “How do you know you’re going to be sore tomorrow?” Rickey would reply – “Because Rickey knows Rickey.”
* He once fell asleep while icing his foot, got frostbite, and had to miss three games. True story.
* “Do your stretching before you sleep. That way you wake up loose.”
* When he broke the career stolen base record of Lou Brock, who was in attendance, Henderson exclaimed, loudly, that he was “the greatest of all-time!” Of course he was wearing his stylish Oakley Blades while doing it.
* “You have to keep running. I always believed I was going to be safe.”
* Henderson received a check for a million dollars from the A’s. He was so excited about the bonus that he took the check and had it framed and hung it on his wall. It was only later that he realized he needed to take the check to the bank if he wanted to get his money.
* “Ricky don’t like it when Rickey can’t find Rickey’s limo.”
* Noted Sabermatrician Bill James had this to say about Henderson. “Some people have asked me whether or not Rickey Henderson belonged in the Hall of Fame. I’ve replied “if you could somehow split him in two, you’d have two Hall of Famers.”
Beyond all the fun the man could flat out play, and play he did all the way to the most steals in big league history (1,406) as well as the most runs ever scored (2,295). Henderson also racked up 3,055 hits, socked 297 long balls, and posted a .401 career ob base percentage. Think of things this way.
* Henderson scored at least 100 runs in a season 13 times, second to Hank Aaron’s total of 15 in baseball history. In addition, per 162 games in his career, Henderson averaged 121 runs (think about that for a moment).
* Henderson stole at least 50 bases 13 times, the most in big league history. Per 162 games in his career Henderson averaged 74 steals a season. Since 2000 only one man, Jose Reyes in 2007, has stolen 74 bases in a season (he had 78).
* Henderson’s total of 1,406 steals is 468 more steals than the #2 man on the all-time list, Lou Brock. Amongst active players I believe the leader in steals is Juan Pierre with 452 (Henderson was caught stealing 335 times). Think about that, the active leader doesn’t even have as many steals as Henderson’s lead is over the #2 man all-time. To put it another way, Henderson has roughly a 35% advantage over the second place man on the steals list. If we switch over to home runs that would mean that someone would have to hit over 1,100 home runs in their career to be ahead of the current leader, Barry Bonds (762) by the same percentage.
* Henderson is one of only two men in baseball history to hit 275 home runs while scoring 1,500 times and stealing 500 bases. The other is Barry Bonds.
So sit back and enjoy Henderson’s victory speech this weekend. It should be one heck of an event marking the entrance into the Hall of one of the 10 greatest all-around players ever to lace up the spikes.
By Ray Flowers