Monday, January 12, 2009

Rickey Henderson in HOF: The Greatest Player I Ever Saw. (UPDATED)

We take a break from the playoffs and Raiders' coaching search to point out this: Tim Kurkjian has a wonderful article on Rickey Henderson's election to the Hall of Fame over the weekend, coming to the conclusion that Rickey was too good. Rickey might also be the funniest baseball player of all time:

Everyone has his favorite Rickey story, none of which is flattering: He framed, but didn't cash, a $100,000 signing-bonus check because, he said, "I was waiting for the interest rate to go up." He asked for a Winnebago as part of his contract with the Mets. When some player on the bus said that players with tenure got to sit wherever they wanted, Rickey said, "Tenure? I got 15 years in the big leagues." And there is the apocryphal story about John Olerud, who always wore a helmet in the field because he suffered a brain aneurysm in college. When Olerud joined Henderson with the Mets, Henderson told him that he'd played with a player in Seattle who also wore a helmet when he was in the field.

"Rickey," Olerud supposedly said (but really didn't), "that was me!"

In 1983, the Contra Costa County library had a summer reading program. I was 9. If you read a certain number of books in a certain amount of time, you got a card stamped, and they gave a free ticket to an Oakland A's game. My mom took my brother and me to the library twice a week. This was how I went to my first major league baseball game. The A's were playing the Indians. In the bottom of the ninth, the Indians ahead 2-1, Rickey came up and hit a three-run, walk-off bomb. I was hooked; Rickey became my favorite player.

Now the A's are bringing my other favorite player, Jason Giambi back. I understand why he went to the Yankees; he wanted to get paid and play on the biggest stage. But I never understood why people in the Bay Area thought he was going to rock the same personality in New York that he had here. To me it was like Samson cutting his hair and losing his power. In this case, Giambi lost his swagger.

Get that hair long, Jason, and show those tats.

UPDATE: has a great list of Rickey Memories.


Dan Hauenstein said...

Rickey was the first favorite baseball player I had. With Unk's influence, I was an A's fan as a young kid, but after Rickey left in '84 I went on a meandering journey to the Angels (still hate the Bosox for killing Donnie Moore), the Astros, and finally the Giants.

I'm a football fan...but finally having a stable, if sometimes rather poor, team enabled baseball to pass the NBA a while back.

Sllaacs said...

When I played Babe Ruth as a teenager, I wore 24 and batted leadoff. I loved it - made All Stars. I was Rickey. Except I played SS.