Skip to content

Rickey slides into Cooperstown this weekend

Jul 24, 2009, 3:29 PM EST

One of my all-time favorite players and the greatest leadoff man in
baseball history goes into the Hall of Fame this weekend, and there are
plenty of amusing Rickey Henderson stories popping up in preparation
for his induction.

For instance, Monty Poole of the San Jose Mercury News has an entertaining article
about Henderson’s mom, Bobbie, who was convinced that she was having a
girl until giving birth to Rickey Nelson Henley Henderson on Christmas
Day in 1958:

He was my Christmas baby and people always said he was like me. See,
Rickey’s always been stout. He wasn’t chubby, but he was solid.
Everybody would tell him he had his mama’s legs, his mama’s hips and
his mama’s little waist. I used to wonder if the reason he was built
like me was because I wanted a girl so bad. I thought I was going to
have a girl. I would even say I hoped it was a girl. …

Rickey got knocked out once playing football in high school, and
that really shook me up. I didn’t want him out there. He just got the
wind knocked out of him, but that was enough for me. I didn’t come out
and tell him to play baseball. I kept telling him I was with him,
whatever he did, but I really didn’t want him playing football.

Instead of being a football-playing girl, Henderson played the
fourth-most games in baseball history, notched 3,055 hits, went to the
All-Star game 10 times, won the AL MVP in 1990, set the single-season
steals record with 130 in 1982, and ranked as the all-time leader in
stolen bases (1,406), walks (2,190), and runs scored (2,295) at the
time of his retirement following an amazing 25-year career.

Years ago, when asked if he felt that Henderson was qualified for
Cooperstown, Bill James replied: “If you could split him in two, you’d
have two Hall of Famers.” He’ll go into the Hall of Fame in one piece
Sunday, but not before trying to get over his fear of public speaking
by practicing his induction speech for the past month in front of students at Laney College:

Speech and me don’t get along sometimes. I’m not a doctor or
professor, so for me to go and write a speech or read a speech, it’s
kind of like putting a tie too tight around my neck. It helped me a
lot. I had a lot of fun with it. I never thought I could come back to
class and have fun. But it gave me a chance to do something different
and work on some things. I talk so fast and my tongue kind of takes off
sometimes. … Shoot, I was scared the first time I got up and read to
the class.

Along with being an inner-circle Hall of Famer and easy first-ballot
selection Henderson was famous for speaking in the third person and
producing a never-ending supply of anecdotes (some real and some apocryphal)
thanks to his famous Rickey-speak. Here’s hoping that all the work he’s
put in polishing his speech won’t keep him from at least a few Yogi
Berra-like moments Sunday.

  1. colorblind - Feb 10, 2010 at 4:11 PM

    Hi there. I just wished to tell you that some components of your website are hard to read for me, as I am color blind. I suffer from protanopia, but there are more kinds of color blindness which will also experience issues. I can understand the majority of the site OK, and the parts I have issues with I am able to understand by using a special browser. All the same, it would be cool if you could bear in mind us color-blind surfers whilst carrying out your next site redesign. Thank you.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

Maddon has high hopes for Cubs
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. P. Sandoval (5896)
  2. Y. Tomas (4120)
  3. H. Ramirez (3966)
  4. J. Lester (3474)
  5. A. LaRoche (2364)
  1. J. Upton (2279)
  2. J. Bruce (2271)
  3. I. Davis (2060)
  4. T. Hunter (2057)
  5. M. Scherzer (2020)