This is something that I have been waiting for for quite some time. Rickey Henderson (not quite spelled like my name) was elected into the Cooperstown baseball Hall of Fame this week.
This is important to me for more than one reason. First off, besides the fact that we share the same first name, I have been an avid fan and collector of Rickey memorabilia since I can remember. I collected figurines (Starting Lineup from Upper Deck), magazines, baseball cards, posters, ball gloves, autographs; anything that I could get my hands on. And starting a collection to young I had to rely on those older than me (mainly my folks) to aid in my collection. My dad was a huge Pete Rose fan (who I will argue until the day I die that he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame) so I grew up watching him collected items for his masterpiece. He actually sold that collection many years ago but he taught me a lot of things in regards to how to collect, what to collect, how to store certain items, etc. It was a lesson that I have carried on to my current obsession with Tiger Woods memorabilia.
But Rickey being elected into the Hall of Fame in only his first ballot, and at a just under 95% vote from the writer association, is unheard of. There are players that run their course of 16 years of being on the ballot and are never elected. But Rickey wasted no time in getting into Cooperstown. He, in my eyes, is one of the best players to ever play the game.
Rickey, born on Christmas day in the back of a taxi cab, stole 1,406 bases. That is a number that I truly do not believe will ever be touched. The current closest to him in the major leagues right now is held by a guy that I once thought might have a chance. Kenny Lofton, at age 41, has 622 stolen bases. Yeah, that is not even half way there. There is no way that anyone will ever tough his record. The same goes for Tiger Woods in golf. By the time this currently 33 year old is done playing there will be no way anyone in the history of the game will touch his win total. This is of course baring any unforeseen tragedy.
But that is not what shocks me about Rickey the most. I mean, the guy was not even the fastest guy on the field most of the time. He just knew how to run bases. And he knew how to slide into those bases. This is a guy that I have never seen in the many years I have followed him slide into a base anything but head first. And a lot of critics say that this is a risky way to play baseball and that you can get hurt a lot easier. And sure, they are right. But that did not stop him. Most people do not run full speed to first base after a walk either. Can anyone tell me who used to do that? (He got to second a lot of the time too because it was so unexpected.)
Rickey has been around the block. He was MVP in 1990. He was a 10 time all star team member. He has won the Golden Glove. He has won the Silver Slugger. He has even won the come back player of the year award. This guy has done it all. He is hands down, for my money, the most talented lead off hitter to ever play the game. This running total of records includes 81 lead off home runs and 2,295 runs scored. Just think about these numbers. Boggles my mind.
I just wanted to take the time to congratulate Rickey and Jim Rice for their selection into the Hall of Fame. It took Rice 15 years and Rickey only 4 (there is a 4 year waiting period before you can be put onto the ballot) but he they got in.