Rickey Henderson: Oakland’s Man of Steal

By Coolhand Luke  |  January 12th, 2009  |  Published in Sports

On Monday, Rickey Henderson was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by a staggering 94.8% of voters in his first year of eligibility. Rickey has come a long way from his days playing for Oakland Tech High School at Bushrod Park, but thankfully he didn’t have to stray too far from home for much of his epic career. He played for the Oakland A’s during four different stints, gracing Oakland’s left field during 2 of 3 consecutive World Series appearances, one of which was a four game sweep of the arch-rival San Francisco Giants. His individual achievements include some of those outlined by Cam Inman in today’s Oakland Tribune in the excerpt below.

His nine-team career ended in 2003, with him owning baseball’s all-time records for stolen bases (1,406), runs (2,295) and walks (2,190; a mark Barry Bonds eventually surpassed).

“Stolen bases are a big part of my career and legacy,” Rickey said. “But what I accomplished as a leadoff hitter, runs scoring is probably No. 1.”

He was a 10-time All-Star, the 1990 American League MVP and the 1989 American League Championship Series MVP. He was at his stolen-base best in 1982, when he swiped a single-season record 130 bases to cap off the “BillyBall” era.

I still have fond memories of watching Rickey play over the years. He was famous for his showmanship and ego, as he often made fancy snatch catches and was known to refer to himself in the third person. But Oakland swagger aside, he was the hardest working man in baseball. He was smart and kept in amazing shape, playing in the major leagues a staggering 24 years! He is sometimes criticized for being full of himself, but much of that is blown out of proportion. Rickey does think highly of himself, but he should given all he has attained. The Rickey many remember however is the nice guy who would constantly chat up the die hard left field Bleacher Bums during years of warm afternoon A’s games.

Perhaps the best memory I have of Rickey though, came on May 1, 1991. I was at the ball park for my dad’s birthday with my pops and grandpa when Rickey tied and broke the career stolen base record. Rickey first stole second base to tie the record of previous stolen base king Lou Brock. And then at 1:52pm on a 1-0 count, he stole his 939th base. The Coliseum was rocking as he hoisted the base above his head and hugged his mother (This record breaking moment is captured by the pictures in this post).

And then he uttered his famous words, “Lou Brock was the symbol of great base stealing. But today I am the greatest of all time. Thank you.”

Check out Rickey’s wikipedia page for more records and stories

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