In honor of Rickey Henderson's election into the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday, I'd like to rerun some clips from a post I wrote back in 2005 when Rickey signed with the San Diego Surf Dawgs. As we get closer to the HoF induction ceremony in July, I look forward to hearing more stories about Henderson's celebrated eccentricities. But I don't know if they'll be any better than these.
For a 12-year span through the 1980's and into the early 90's, Rickey owned the American League stolen base crown. The one year he didn't get it was 1987, when he played in only 95 games because of a hamstring injury. So Harold Reynolds was the final season leader with 60 steals. And after the season, H.R. got a phone call from someone (as told on MLB.com's "Fantasy 411"):
"Reynolds! This is Rickey."
"Oh, hey Rick."
"60 steals, huh?"
"Yeah, I can't believe it. It was amazing."
"60?! Rickey had 60 at the All-Star Break!"
Immediately after breaking Lou Brock's stolen base record, the Oakland Athletics held an on-field ceremony commemorating the occasion. Rickey ended a relatively gracious speech by saying, "Lou Brock was the symbol of great base stealing. But today, I'm the greatest of all time. Thank you."
Henderson often referred to himself in the third person. He once called the general manager of a baseball team, looking for a job, and said, "Rickey wants to play another year and he thinks he wants to play for you."
While playing for the San Diego Padres late in his career, Henderson got onto the team bus and was looking for a seat. A teammate, Steve Finley, said, "Sit anywhere you want, you got tenure."
Rickey's response? "Ten years? What are you talking about? Rickey got 16, 17 years."
This one apparently isn't true, but it's so funny that it should be: While playing for the Seattle Mariners, Rickey approached John Olerud, who wears a batting helmet on the field because of a brain aneurysm he suffered, and said "I used to play with a dude in New York who did the same thing."
Olerud's response? "That was me." Olerud and Rickey had previously played together with the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays.