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Rickey Henderson

From BR Bullpen


Rickey Nelson Henley Henderson
(Man of Steal)
born Rickey Nelson Henley

Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

Henderson with the Red Sox
"I always believed I was going to be safe." - Rickey Henderson, on his philosophy of stealing bases
". . . it wasn't until I saw Rickey that I understood what baseball was about. Rickey Henderson is a run, man!" - Mitchell Page

Rickey Henderson felt that the public never properly appreciated him. He tended to talk himself up, and that did not go over well with the sportswriters. However, eventually, his career numbers became so impressive that everyone had to recognize his substantial accomplishments, and when time came to vote on his candidacy for the Hall of Fame, he was elected with overwhelming support on the first ballot. Shortly after his induction in Cooperstown in 2009, the Oakland Athletics retired his uniform number 24. Henderson is widely considered the greatest leadoff hitter of all time.

Henderson set several major league standards during his 25-season career; he is the all-time leader in runs (2295), stolen bases (1406), and times caught stealing (335). He was also the leader in walks at the time of his final major-league game (2190). He also holds the single-season records for steals (130), times caught stealing (42), and steal attempts (172), all in 1982. Finally, he led the American League in steals a record 12 times.

Henderson with the Yankees

Although known primarily for his stolen bases and career totals in runs scored and walks, he also had some power: he was a decent home run hitter with 297 home runs, and he accumulated 510 doubles in his career.

He was the American League Most Valuable Player once, in 1990, and was also second once in the MVP voting and third once.

Statistician Bill James was once asked if he thought Rickey Henderson was a Hall of Famer. James' reply: "If you could split him in two, you'd have two Hall of Famers."

Rickey Henderson played in four different decades. He broke into the American League when Carl Yastrzemski was still active in the league, and finished up in the National League when Miguel Cabrera was a rookie, but he still was not finished with playing baseball: he helped lead the 2005 San Diego Surf Dawgs of the Golden Baseball League to become the league's inaugural champions.

Later, he considered returning to the major leagues again. After the 2007 All-Star Game, he was appointed as first base coach by the New York Mets, following the firing of hitting coach Rick Down (Howard Johnson, who was the first base coach, was appointed hitting coach).

He is known for habitually speaking of himself in the third person.


There is a story that once a team called to ask why his signing bonus check - a very sizable one - hadn't been cashed. The team was concerned there was a problem. They called his agent - whose former job had been towel boy in the A's locker room - and were told that Henderson was waiting for the interest rates to go up before cashing it. Another has him taking his first million dollar check and framing it on the wall - until the team called to tell him he had to cash it first.

Another one: once he saw John Olerud playing first base with a batting helmet and said, "Hey, Rickey used to have a teammate with the Mets who played first with a helmet." Olerud then informed Rickey that they were teammates with the Mets. This story is widespread but false.[1]

Another Henderson story goes that he once missed a game in August with frostbite because he left an ice pack on his foot too long.

When he played for the Mets in 1999 and 2000, he wore #24. What is significant about that is that it was the number worn by the great Willie Mays when he played his two final seasons with the Mets, and while not officially retired, it had not been used since, except for a few games in 1990 when Kelvin Torve was issued the number, apparently because of an oversight. Mays said he was fine with a player of Rickey's accomplishments wearing his number, but reminded folks that late owner Joan Payson had promised not to give the number to anyone after his retirement. Henderson had worn the number in Oakland, in tribute to Mays.

Famous Teammates[edit]


His main teammates included, with the Oakland A's Mark McGwire (3283), Dwayne Murphy (3236), Jose Canseco (2369), Carney Lansford (2323), Dennis Eckersley (2188), Tony Armas (1668) and Mike Heath (1250). In New York, one teammate was Don Mattingly, who was lionized by Yankee fans, as he would be by Henderson himself, in short order. [2] In 1986, when Mattingly hit .352 with 31 homers and 113 RBI and finished second in the MVP voting, Bill James asked why Mattingly had only driven in 113 runs when he had Rickey Henderson batting leadoff on the team and scoring 130 runs.

Based on the similarity scores method, the most similar player is Craig Biggio, with a similarity score of only 721.

Henderson set records with one or more home runs and one or more stolen bases in each of 25 consecutive years.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 10-time AL All-Star (1980, 1982-1988, 1990 & 1991)
  • AL MVP: (1990)
  • 1989 ALCS MVP
  • AL Gold Glove Winner (1981)
  • 3-time AL Silver Slugger Award Winner (1981, 1985 & 1990)
  • 1999 NL Comeback Player of the Year Award
  • AL On-Base Percentage Leader (1990)
  • AL OPS Leader (1990)
  • 5-time AL Runs Scored Leader: (1981, 1985, 1986, 1989 & 1990)
  • AL Hits Leader (1981)
  • 4-time AL Bases on Balls Leader: (1982, 1983, 1989 & 1998)
  • 12-time AL Stolen Bases Leader: (1980-1986, 1988-1991 & 1998)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 4 (1985, 1986, 1990 & 1993)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 13 (1980, 1982-1986, 1988-1991, 1993, 1996 & 1998)
  • 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 14 (1980-1986, 1988-1991, 1993, 1995 & 1998)
  • 100 Stolen Bases Seasons: 3 (1980, 1982 & 1983)
  • Won two World Series with the Oakland Athletics (1989) and the Toronto Blue Jays (1993)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 2009

1989 1990 1991
Robin Yount Rickey Henderson Cal Ripken, Jr

Records Held[edit]

  • Runs, career, 2295
  • Runs, right handed batter, career, 2295
  • Stolen bases, career, 1406
  • Stolen bases, season, 130, 1982
  • Stolen base attempts, career, 1731
  • Stolen base attempts, season, 172, 1982
  • Times caught stealing, career, 325
  • Times caught stealing, season, 42, 1982
  • Walks, right handed batter, career, 2190
  • Home runs to lead off the game, career, 81


  1. [1]
  2. Rick Sorci: "Baseball Profile: Outfielder Rickey Henderson", Baseball Digest, April 1994, p. 56. [2] (See 'Player I have learned the most from.' )

Further Reading[edit]

  • Rickey Henderson (as told to George Vass): "The Game I'll Never Forget", Baseball Digest, October 1992, pp. 49-50. [3]
  • Rick Sorci: "Baseball Profile: Outfielder Rickey Henderson", Baseball Digest, April 1994, p. 56. [4]

Related Sites[edit]