I know it’s a couple minutes after midnight on the East Coast (but out West it’s still December 25, 2014!) and I hope you all had a lovely Christmas/Hanukkah or as in my case Winter Solistice (a couple days late!)! Happy Holidays!
Today is another kinda of “holiday” and if you have ever seen him play (esp. live), you’d know why this day can be considered a different kind of holiday.
On Christmas day in 1958 the greatest base stealer to ever play the game of baseball was born. This Christmas marks his 56th bithday, which I think deserves at least a mini-tribute to one of the most AmAzing ballplayers I’ve had the priviledge to see play, Mr. Rickey Henderson!!!
I loved watching Rickey run when I was a kid! “Run RIckey Run!” we would all chant. On May 1, 1991, in Oakland, California, Rickey (there, for obvious reasons, is no point in using his last name at any point past the initial time) stole his 939th base, breaking Lou Brock‘s record for stolen bases in a career.
Of course that was not the last base Rickey ever stole, collecting 1, 406 total bases over the course of his 25 Major League seasons. He spent the majority of that career in Oakland playing for the Athletics, the team he rooted for as a kid.
After moving from Chicago to Oakland Rickey played youth baseball with his future A’s teammate pitcher Dave Stewart. He went to Oakland Technical High School, graduating in 1976.
Baseball almost lost Rickey to a football career – he had dreamed of being a running back for the Raiders while growing up in Oakland – and there was not a shortage of colleges offering the four sport (baseball, basketball, football and track) athlete scholarships.
Scholarships he turned down on his mother’s advice that “football players have shorter careers” – and a wise woman she was because not only is that true, but Rickey became one of the greatest baseball players of all time!
Drafted in the fourth round of the 1076 Draft by the A’s, Rickey made his big league debut on June 24, 1979. During his career he played also for the New York Yankees, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, Toronto Blue Jays, Anaheim Angels, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers before retiring in 2003.
Rickey will always be an Oakland Athletic. He spent four stints and 14 total seasons in Oakland, the city where he grew up. He won a World Championship with the A’s in 1989 when they A’s swept their cross bay rival San Francisco Giants.
He won his second World Championship after being traded by the A’s to the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993. Only to be granted free agency at the season’s end where he promptly resigned with Oakland.
Rickey will always be special to fans of the Oakland A’s that saw him play and I hope that the stories of Rickey’s incredible speed will live on even in those who are too young to have seen him play and their kids, those little players to be named later .
Besides being the greatest baserunner the game has ever seen Rickey was also the greatest leadoff hitter of his generation. He made 10 All-Star Game appearances and was named MVP of the American League in 1990 during on of his stints in Oakland. He was runner up for the MVP Award in 1981 to former Athletic and Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers.
Rickey holds so many records and has so many unbelievable accomplishments, most of which happened within my lifetime I’m proud to say, that I’m just gonna let good old Wikipedia list them all. (I doubled checked as best I could on baseball-reference.com but there were so many I caved and well, Wikipedia … damn it, Jen, you’re better than that! – see that I did there?)
Career Highlights and Awards:
- 10× All-Star (1980, 1982–1988, 1990, 1991)
- 2× World Series champion (1989, 1993)
- AL MVP (1990)
- ALCS MVP (1989)
- Gold Glove Award (1981)
- 3× Silver Slugger Award (1981, 1985, 1990)
- NL Comeback Player of the Year (1999)
- 12× AL stolen base champion (1980–1986, 1988–1991, 1998)
- Oakland Athletics #24 retired
- 1,406 career stolen bases
- 2,295 career runs
- 81 career lead-off home runs
- 130 stolen bases, single season