Henderson unsung as great teammate
Players remember newest Hall of Famer for his generosity and for being a 'regular guy'
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Rickey Henderson is generally regarded as the greatest leadoff man in Major League Baseball history. He's known as a catalyst, agitator, trailblazer, master thief and one-man wrecking crew in a multiskilled package.
CLASS OF 2009
Rickey Henderson will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame along with Jim Rice and Joe Gordon on Sunday starting at 1:30 p.m. ET in Cooperstown, N.Y. Approximately 51 Hall of Famers are scheduled to be in attendance.
“"I remember hearing stories that he didn't know his own teammates," Ibanez said. "That's a blatant lie. If a guy came in to pitch, Rickey already knew how that guy tipped his motion toward the plate to get a good jump. If not, he'd figure the guy out in a second. He was supersmart." Henderson's work ethic was part and parcel of his desire to be the best. Matt Stairs, a teammate with Oakland in 1998, remembers Henderson's arriving early each morning at spring training and running barefoot on the grass, foul line to foul line, while the other A's were in the clubhouse grabbing that first donut or cup of coffee. Henderson's competitive drive and love of baseball prompted him to hang on too long at the end. But he never tired of the camaraderie, and he could shake the clubhouse with his laugh. "Rickey loved to talk trash, in a good way, but he could also take it," Stairs said. "He could play cards, too. He would get the young kids to play and take their money." Former teammates remember Henderson's gravitating to the younger players. He took Mike Cameron and Charles Gipson under his wing in Seattle and tried to teach them the art of stealing bases. Maybe the kids helped keep him young, or he just liked the thought of playing mentor. It's funny how baseball keeps bringing him back full circle. In the summer of 1976, Henderson played in a California high school All-Star Game in Anaheim. He was part of the North team roster, and the South squad featured a talented young shortstop named Alan Trammell. "He led off the game with a double," Trammell said. "We had a scouting report on Rickey, so on the first pitch we did an inside move and picked him off second." In 2001, Trammell was a coach in San Diego, and Henderson notched career hit No. 3,000 with the Padres that season. In their limited time together, Trammell saw a side of Rickey that he never could have discerned from crowding the second base bag. "He never complained once when he didn't play, and the young players loved him," Trammell said. "He was just a regular guy there. I saw that firsthand." Sunday afternoon in Cooperstown, come rain or shine, Rickey Henderson will stand on a stage with Rice and 50 other baseball immortals and accept his plaque. He's a Hall of Famer now, and he'll never have the luxury of being "regular" again. Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN.com. His book "License To Deal" was published by Rodale. Click here to order a copy. Jerry can be reached via e-mail.
I remember hearing stories that he didn't know his own teammates. That's a blatant lie. If a guy came in to pitch, Rickey already knew how that guy tipped his motion toward the plate to get a good jump. If not, he'd figure the guy out in a second. He was super smart.” -- Former teammate Raul Ibanez
MORE MLB HEADLINES
- Trout hits for cycle as Angels drub Mariners
- Quintana sharp as White Sox edge Red Sox
- Giants' Vogelsong to DL with broken hand
- Straily outduels Darvish as A's top Rangers