Rickey entertained in so many ways
Many years ago, A's leadoff man Rickey Henderson did what he did better than anyone: He reached base to start a game. Orioles manager Frank Robinson determined that his pitcher and catcher were incapable of stopping Henderson from stealing, so they didn't attempt a throw as he stole second and third. "We might have thrown the ball into center field, or down the left field line," Robinson said. "We couldn't stop him. He is just too good."That's how good Henderson was: He was too good. He was one of the greatest players of all time, the greatest leadoff man ever, one of the best left fielders, and a physical freak whose combination of speed and power was basically unmatched in major league history. He is the career leader in stolen bases (1,406) and runs scored (2,295), ranks second in walks (2,190), finished with 3,055 hits and won the American League MVP in 1992. He had 468 more steals than Lou Brock, who is second on the all-time list, and had more than the combined stolen base totals of Joe Morgan (689) and Maury Wills (586). The gap between Henderson and Brock is larger than the steals total of the active leader, Juan Pierre (429). Plus, for all his speed, Henderson's 297 home runs are in the top 125 all time.
He was, by far, the most dynamic leadoff hitter I've ever seen. If you got 2-0 on him, you were fearful of throwing it down the middle because he could hit a home run. But if you threw ball three, he was going to walk, and then he's on second base.
--Former pitcher Mike Flanagan about Rickey Henderson
"There was no one else like him," former pitcher Tom Candiotti said. "I hated Rickey. Really, I couldn't stand him. He never swung at my knuckleball, he never swung at my curveball. He never swung until he got two strikes. He had the strike zone the size of a coffee can. If you threw him a fastball, he would hit it for a home run. If you walked him, it was a triple. It was ridiculous. It was like, 'Good gosh, what are we going to do with this guy?'"There wasn't much anyone could do. "We threw the kitchen sink at him to try to keep him close to first, which we couldn't, but once he got to second, forget about it," Flanagan said. "If you paid attention to him there, invariably [Carney] Lansford would hit a double, [Jose] Canseco or [Mark] McGwire would go deep. If you tried to hold him on all the way around the bases, it was so distracting, before you knew it, you were down five runs." In Henderson's first full year in the major leagues in 1980, he stole 100 bases, the third player in history to do that. He has three of the top eight stolen bases seasons in history, including a record 130 in 1982. He went headfirst into the bag for 25 years, something that amazed Brock, who always went feetfirst because headfirst made one so much more susceptible to injury. But, as Henderson said, "it's the fastest way to go. And I'm fast." "When he wanted to go, he would go, and no one could stop him," Candiotti said. "I was his teammate for one month. He was a great teammate; he taught me so much about the game. I asked him, 'How do I stop you?' He told me the best thing to do was hold the ball. He didn't like it when the pitcher held the ball because he wanted to run as soon as possible."
|Read Tim Kurkjian's piece on Rickey Henderson in Spanish on ESPNdeportes.com.|
Henderson was always on base -- only Pete Rose, Barry Bonds and Ty Cobb reached base more times in baseball history -- and not just because he was a good hitter. Only Bonds drew more walks in baseball history.
Rickey is like Manny [Ramirez]. They put out this karma like they're not very smart when you know they're damned smart baseball players. I know Rickey is smart. I played poker with him on the plane. He was as smart as could be with numbers, and with counting cards.
--Former pitcher Tom Candiotti