Henderson, Rickey 1958–
Rickey Henderson 1958–
Professional baseball player
Rickey Henderson is considered one of the most prolific baseball players in the Oakland A’s history. He used his blazing speed, not only to inspire fear in the hearts of catchers everywhere, but sprint straight into baseball’s record books. He is also one of the best base stealers in baseball history.
Born Richard Henderson on December 25, 1958 in Chicago, Illinois, he would later graduate from California’s Oakland Technical High School in 1976. There, he excelled in baseball, basketball, and football, while being named to the All-Oakland Athletic League in baseball for three years. In his senior year, Henderson rushed for 1, 100 yards on the football field, garnering dozens of scholarship offers from colleges. Instead, he opted for a baseball career when he was drafted in the fourth round by the Oakland A’s in 1976. Called up on June 23, 1979 for his first pro game, the outfielder stole 33 bases in just 89 games. Yet this impressive beginning was only a portent of even greater success to come.
From 1980 to 1984, Henderson wowed baseball fans worldwide with his incredible base-stealing prowess. During those five seasons, he had 460 stolen bases. He hit the 100-base mark in only his second professional season in 1980, the first player in baseball’s history to record a triple-digit stolen base count. Injuries hampered him in 1981, and he stacked up a modest 56 steals.
In 1982, Henderson turned himself into the master thief of Major League Baseball. He set a single-season record for steals with 130. The following season, he broke the 100-stolen base plateau for the third—and final—time in his career. He would be the only American League player to perform that feat.
Henderson believed his record-setting base stealing accomplishments came at a time when the practice was muffled by the allure of the booming home run. When Henderson hit triple digits in steals, he did so at a time when basepath speed demons such as Lou Brock were slowing. In the book Off Base: Confessions of a Thief, Henderson teamed with writer John Shea to express his baseball beliefs. “When I came into the league, Lou was a few months from retiring,” Henderson wrote in Off Base. “Campy Campaneris, Bobby Bonds, and Joe Morgan were winding down their careers. Stolen bases were dying down, and I like to think I was one of the
At a Glance…
Born Richard Henderson on December 25, 1958, in Chicago, IL; married Pam; children: Angela, Alexis, and Adriann.
Career: Baseball player. Drafted by Oakland A’s, 1976; traded to New York Yankees, 1985; traded back to Oakland, 1989; traded to Toronto, 1993; traded back to Oakland, 1994; acquired by San Diego Padres, 1996; played 32 games for Anaheim, 1997; traded to Oakland, 1998; traded to New York Mets, 1999; signed with Seattle Mariners, 2000.
Awards: Major League records: all-time stolen bases (1, 370), 2000, most home runs leading off a game (75); steals in a season (130), 1982; most seasons leading league in stolen bases (12); holds all-time club steals records for Oakland (1, 270) and the New York Yankees (326); American League Most Valuable Player, 1990.
Address: Agent— Jeff Boras, c/o Beverly Hills Sports Council, 9595 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1010, Beverly Hills CA 90212.
guys who brought it back to life. Not only that, I was determined to push the art of stealing to another level.”
He found such a level by tying an American Leaguerecord of seven steals in two consecutive games in July of 1983 against the Texas Rangers. By August of 1983, Henderson already had stolen 400 bases. In 1984, Henderson would prove that the previous seasons were not an aberration. His 66 steals that season topped the American League for the fifth straight year. He also finished second in the American League with 113 runs scored before being traded to the New York Yankees.
A player of Henderson’s caliber had little problem fitting in with the Yankees. In 1985, Henderson flexed at plate, as well as on base. As his hitting improved, so did his reputation in the league. That season, he hit a then-career-high 24 home runs, while stealing 80 bases. By doing so, Henderson became the first American League player to hit 20 or more homers and steal 50 bases in a season. Additionally, his 146 runs-scored were the most by a Yankee since Joe DiMaggio scored 150 runs in 1949. Against the Kansas City Royals on May 10, 1985, Henderson stole his 500th base. His summer only got better when he was named American League Player of the Month for June.
From 1986 to 1990, Henderson’s stats fluctuated. In 1987, injuries plagued the All-Star outfielder, as he stole 41 bases, a number that would be a career-high for the average baseball player, but not for Henderson. After stealing 87 the previous year, 41 stolen bases was considered a major drop-off. However, Henderson reached impressive milestones like his 500th RBI on September 13, 1988, his 700th steal on September 29, 1987, and his 1, 000th career run scored on July 17, 1988.
Starting his career on a phenomenal note, Henderson did not concern himself with injuries or production numbers. He focused, rather, on stealing the base. In Off Base, Henderson pointed out the Zen of base stealing: “Base stealing is an art, just like hitting home runs is an art for the best power hitters.” Henderson continued, “It’s something you’ve got to want to do, and you can’t be afraid to fail. There’s nothing worse than getting thrown out, then walking slowly back to the dugout all alone as the infielders throw the ball around in celebration. You’re thinking to yourself ‘Damn, I ran and they beat me,’ It hurts, but you’ve got to have the nerve to march back out there and try again.
Henderson’s numbers continued to shine. During the final four seasons of the 1980s Henderson stole 298 bases, scoring 439 runs. In 1989, he was named to his seventh consecutive—and eighth overall—All-Star game. That same year, he was traded back to Oakland from New York, helping the A’s shine in the postseason and ultimately make it to the playoffs. There, Henderson propelled the A’s into the World Series.
Henderson was named MVP following the American League Championship Series, beating the Toronto Blue Jays. He batted .400, leading all hitters with 15 total bases, eight runs scored, and five RBI. His eight steals set a playoff record. For the entire nine-game post-season, Henderson hit .441 with 12 runs scored, 15 hits (eight went for extra bases), nine walks, eight RBI and 11 steals.
The 1990s started out on the right note for the right-handed outfielder, who also doubled as a designated hitter. When a player of Henderson’s caliber has this type of success in the first half of his career, the second half typically sees the player attaining milestones and breaking long-standing records. Such was the case for Henderson.
In 1990, he led the league in runs (119), on-base percentage (.439) and in steals (65). He ranked second in hitting, with a career-best .324 average. And while he earned American League Most Valuable Player honors—becoming the fifth Oakland A to do so—he continued to build his credentials. On May 29, 1990, when he stole third against Toronto, he passed Hall of Famer Ty Cobb for most stolen bases in the American League. Two weeks later, Henderson stole his 900th base.
Also in 1990, Henderson led Oakland to its second consecutive World Series. In 33 games, he scored in the first inning. On two occasions, he scored from third base on a routine sacrifice fly to an infielder, a feat rarely completed in baseball. Despite losing in four games to Cincinnati, Henderson led his team with a .333 average.
In 1991, Henderson surpassed one his mentors, Lou Brock, for the all-time steals record. During the May 1st game against the New York Yankees, Henderson stole his 939rd base, breaking Brock’s record. While he went on steal several hundred more bases, Henderson wrote in Off Base that learning from a game’s great in Brock helped his confidence early in his career: “Although I picked up a lot of things from a lot of people, perhaps the most important thing came from Lou Brock.” Henderson explained, “Lou gave me inspiration. I ran a lot in the majors. But I never knew how good I could be until talking with Lou Brock that time in Boston, when he declared I’d be the one to break his career record.”
The rest of the 1990s had Henderson bouncing from team to team, experiencing a series of nagging injuries and a drop in performance. Between 1991 and 2001, he was either traded or re-signed six times. Of those, he found himself back in an A’s uniform twice. He also had stints with in Toronto, San Diego, Anaheim, the New York Mets, and Seattle.
Halfway through the 1993 season in Oakland, the A’s traded Henderson to Toronto. Prior to the deal, he was hitting .327, had 31 stolen bases, scored 77 runs and added 17 home runs. His ability to put runs on the board in the first inning, thus getting his team off to the ever-advantageous early lead, hit incredible heights on July 5, 1993. Against the Cleveland Indians, Henderson became only the second player in the game’s history to lead off each game of a doubleheader with a home run.
The trade did little to interrupt his stride. In 44 games for the Blue Jays, Henderson stole 22 bases, scored 37 runs and added 35 hits. Against Philadelphia in the World Series, Henderson hit .227 with five walks, six runs and one steal. When Toronto won the Series on teammate Joe Carter’s historic homer, Henderson was on second base, representing the tying run.
Henderson returned to Oakland for the 1994 and 1995 seasons. Injuries hampered the outfielder, playing only 197 games over a two-season period. San Diego acquired him in 1996 and it appeared the venue change was just what he needed. For the Padres, he stole 37 bases. That count became the 17th consecutive season where he stole at least thirty bases.
The following year he was traded just after midseason to Anaheim. Between the two clubs, Henderson would finish in typical fashion, scoring 100 runs and stealing 41 bases. With 18 seasons in the major leagues, Henderson’s stolen base totals were not exactly in triple-digits anymore. The last time he stole more than 60 was in 1990. As he aged, his base-stealing tapered a little, by Henderson standards, but was still amongst the league’s best year in and year out.
In 1998, Henderson returned to Oakland for the third time. Typically, he scored 101 runs and stole 66 bases. He finished his Oakland A’s career with nearly every club record including games (1, 552), at bats (5, 598), runs (1, 169), hits (1, 640), doubles (273), triples (40), walks (1, 109) and, of course, his 801 steals is a club record that could s:and for decades. In 1999, he became a New York Met. The Mets eventually traded Henderson to Seattle, where he stole 31 bases in 92 games. The change of scenery must have done some good, as he scored 58 runs and had 77 hits.
The club he broke in with and to whom he kept returning, named him to the A’s All-Century Team. In an article published in the Contra Costa Times, family members and several former teammates paid tribute to the one of the club’s most esteemed members. Former teammate Dave Stewart, who was among those interviewed for the article, summed Henderson’s legacy with the A’s: “There’s no question that in the history of this organization that few people could beat you as many ways as Rickey could.” Stewart, an A’s player from 1989-92 and ctgain in 1995, continued,“There was nothing better than being able to sit and watch him dominate a game.”
By 2001, Henderson had put up blinding statistics throughout his career. During his 17 year-career, Henderson’s yearly averages were astounding: 78 stolen bases, 117 walks, 124 runs scored, 165 hits, 60 RBI and 16 home runs. Such statistics led Sporting News writer Jon Heyman to call Henderson, “a genius in cleats.” Henderson impressive record has also caused much speculation about a possible Hall of Fame induction. Indeed, Heyman refers to Henderson as a “future Hall of Famer.” In Heyman’s view, and the view of many others, it is just a matter of time before Henderson receives this ultimate recognition.
Henderson, Rickey and Shea, John, Off Base: Confessions of a Thief, HarperCollins, 1992.
Contra Costa Times, June 3, 2000.
Sporting News, April 17, 2000.
Additional materials were found online at: http://www.espn.go.com.
American baseball player
One of baseball history's most prolific and long-careered players, Rickey Henderson is the sport's all-time leader in stolen bases, runs, and walks. With his powerful batting and speed, he has been deemed one of baseball's greatest leadoff hitters, and holds the record for most home runs at the start of a game (75). Since his 1979 major-league debut, the Golden Glove-winning outfielder and eleven-time All-Star has played on numerous teams, including the Oakland A's, New York Yankees, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, and Boston Red Sox. Yet the Chicago-born athlete's stellar career has often been over-shadowed by his image as a boastful and egotistical player—despite his claims of being misunderstood. Still playing baseball and breaking records in the early 2000s, Henderson is regarded as a virtual shoo-in to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Richard Henley Henderson was born in the backseat of a car in Chicago, Illinois, on Christmas Day 1958. His parents separated two years later, and his mother, Bobbie, took Henderson and his siblings to live in Oakland, California. Here, Henderson attended elementary school and played baseball at local Bushrod Park. A star athlete at Oakland Technical High School, he played numerous sports; as a senior he rushed for 1,100 yards as a football player. He also distinguished himself in baseball, and was named to the All-Oakland Athletic League for three of his high school years. Upon graduating, the 5-foot-10 athlete received several football scholarship offers. Instead, he chose to forgo college and pursue a career in professional baseball. In 1976 the eighteen-year-old player was drafted in round four by the Oakland A's. He played as an outfielder in the minor-league farm system for the next three years, and was called up on June 23, 1979, for his first major-league game.
Known as Stolen Base King
In his first half-season as a rookie, Henderson demonstrated his speed and skill for stealing bases, logging thirty-three steals in only eighty-nine games. By the middle of his second full season—before the 1981 baseball strike cut the season short—Henderson was leading not only in stolen bases (56) but also in runs scored (89), hits (135), and outfield putouts (327). The latter honor led to a 1981 Golden Glove Award. Henderson's peak as "Stolen Base King" came in 1982, when he stole a record-setting 130 bases. The following season he logged 108 steals, breaking the 100-mark for the third and last time of his career.
Henderson perfected the art of stealing bases at a time when fans tended to champion power hitters. Speed demon Lou Brock , Henderson's predecessor in record-setting stolen bases, was on the verge of retirement when Henderson's career was beginning. Henderson took it upon himself to keep up the tradition, and the Chicago-born player was soon on the road to eclipsing Brock's career record.
In 1984 Henderson was traded to the New York Yankees, where he was reunited with former A's manager Billy Martin . In one of his best seasons to date, he hit twenty-four home runs and ended with a .314 batting average. Although he did not top his personal best in 1984, he led the league that year in stolen bases (80). His value on the Yankees was second only to champion slugger Don Mattingly.
Unusual for having a left-handed throw and a right-handed batting stance, Henderson excelled as both an outfielder and a hitter. In 1986 he hit a career high of twenty-eight home runs; he also scored 146 runs—more than any other player since Ted Williams . He averaged more than one run per game, a percentage comparable to that of legendary Yankee Lou Gehrig . As an outfielder he proved himself to be versatile, moving from left to center field in 1985 (he later returned to his preferred left field). For his deft-looking catches, Henderson earned the nickname "Style Dog." As a Yankee he continued to prove his base-stealing prowess, logging ninety-three steals in 1988.
Broke Records in Steals, Runs, and Walks
After a brief slump in 1989, Henderson was traded back to the Oakland A's in June, signing a four-year, $12 million contract, one of the most lucrative deals in baseball. The move seemed to rejuvenate Henderson, who batted .325 and scored 119 runs and twenty-eight homers in 1990. For these achievements he earned his first and only Most Valuable Player award. The following year, he broke Brock's career stolen-base record, logging his 939th steal on May 1. In a ceremony to honor his achievement, he told the crowd, "Today I am the greatest of all time" (BaseballLibrary.com). Statements such as these earned Henderson his reputation as a braggart; many fans were put off by his tendency to sing his own praises. "Those words [about being the greatest] haunt me to this day," he told Dennis Manoloff of the Plain Dealer. "They overshadow what I've accomplished in this game."
|1958||Born on December 25 in Chicago, Illinois|
|1976||Graduates from California's Oakland Technical High School|
|1976||Selected by Oakland A's in fourth round of draft|
|1979||Makes major-league debut|
|1982||Logs record-setting 130 stolen bases; logs most career home runs leading off a game (75)|
|1984||Traded to New York Yankees|
|1989||Plays for Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland A's, San Diego Padres|
|1998||Becomes free agent; signs with New York Mets|
|2000||Signs with Seattle Mariners|
|2000||Breaks Lou Brock's record for stolen bases|
|2001||Signs with San Diego Padres|
|2001||Becomes all-time leader in walks and runs|
|2002||Signs with Boston Red Sox|
In the 1990s Henderson was traded several times, playing for the Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, and Anaheim Angels. In 1998 he joined the New York Mets as a free agent. The aging player continued to prove himself valuable, batting a .315 average. Yet his personality clashed with the team's management. Henderson's reputation soured after the 1999 National League Championship Series, when it was rumored that he and teammate Bobby Bonilla were playing cards in the club-house while their team suffered a crushing loss to the Atlanta Braves. Henderson denied the rumor, but some say it led to his release from the team in May 2000.
Henderson joined his seventh team, the Seattle Mariners, in 2000. By the following season he was without a contract, however, as the Mariners chose not to resign the 42-year-old player. After a brief period without a team, Henderson signed with the San Diego Padres. His batting average had dipped to .227, but he continued scoring runs, becoming baseball's all-time leader in that category in 2001. The same year, he surpassed Babe Ruth in career walks with 2,063. In his final swing of the season, he logged the 3,000th hit of his career. Signing with the Boston Red Sox, his ninth team, in 2002, Henderson proved his staying power by demonstrating one of the highest on-base percentages on the team.
The key to Henderson's longevity as a player? "[P]ushups, sit-ups, push-ups, sit-ups—and a lot of running," he told Manoloff of the Plain Dealer. "I'm not going to give [baseball] up if I can still perform, compete and enjoy the game." When he does retire, Henderson will be remembered for his base-stealing and lead-off hitting prowess, and for his many other record-breaking moments.
|ANA: Anaheim Angels; BOS: Boston Red Sox; NY: New York Mets; OAK: Oakland A's; SD: San Diego Padres; SEA: Seattle Mariners; TOR: Toronto Blue Jays.|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1981||Golden Glove Award|
|1982||Most home runs leading off a game; most steals in a season|
|1990||American League Most Valuable Player|
|1991||All-time stolen-base champion|
|2001||All-time leader in runs|
|2001||All-time leader in walks|
SELECTED WRITINGS BY HENDERSON:
(With John Shea) Off Base: Confessions of a Thief, HarperCollins, 1992.
"Rickey Henderson." Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 28. Edited by Ashyia Henderson. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001.
Center, Bill. "Henderson's Raring to Go." San Diego Union-Tribune (March 20, 2001): D3.
Krasner, Steven. "Seldom-Used Henderson Provides the Spark for Sox." Providence Journal-Bulletin (August 18, 2002): D3.
Kroichick, Ron. "Well-Traveled Rickey Henderson Still Chasing Down Cobb, Ruth." San Francisco Chronicle (June 9, 2000): E1.
Manoloff, Dennis. "Catching Up with Rickey Henderson." Plain Dealer (September 29, 2002): D6.
"Bobby Bonilla." BaseballLibrary.com. http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/B/Bonilla_Bobby.stm (December 8, 2002).
"Henderson, Rickey H." HickokSports. http://www.hickoksports.com/biograph/hendersonrickey.shtml (December 4, 2002).
"Rickey Henderson." BaseballLibrary.com. http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/H/Henderson_Rickey.stm (December 4, 2002).
Sketch by Wendy Kagan
(b. 25 December 1958 in Chicago, Illinois), professional baseball player who is considered by many the best leadoff batter as well as one of the most colorful characters in the game's history.
Henderson was born Rickey Henley en route to the hospital in the back seat of Bobbie and John Henley's Oldsmobile. In his autobiography Henderson attributes his premature entry into the world to his great speed: "I've always been fast, from the minute I was born." Henderson was the fourth of Bobbie's seven children. When he was two his father, a truck driver, abandoned his wife and family and was never heard from again. After her husband left, Bobbie moved her family to her mother's farm in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. When Henderson was ten his mother moved the family to Oakland, California, where she married Paul Henderson. Bobbie's new husband adopted the children, changing their name to Henderson; he and Bobbie had two children of their own. Eventually, however, they separated, and Bobbie raised the children alone. Henderson recalls, "Most of my life, there was no man in the house. Grandma raised us in Arkansas, and Momma raised us in Oakland." Bobbie supported the family by working as a registered nurse.
Henderson attended Oakland Technical High School, where he met Pamela Palmer, the future mother of his two daughters. In high school Henderson excelled in baseball, football, and basketball. Football was Henderson's first love. As a high school All-America running back, he rushed for 1,100 yards during his senior year and received more than twenty football scholarship offers. Excelling equally in baseball, Henderson batted .716 as a high school junior and .465 as a senior. He graduated from high school in 1976.
In the June 1976 draft Henderson was chosen in the fourth round by the Oakland Athletics, largely at the urging of Jim Guinn, a Berkeley, California, police officer and part-time Athletics' scout. Yet Henderson's baseball career owes less to Guinn than to his mother. If the choice had been Henderson's, he would have accepted a football scholarship. Instead, he left the decision to his mother; she chose baseball, believing that her son would have a healthier and longer career in that sport.
After signing with the Athletics, Henderson was sent to their rookie farm team in Boise, Idaho. He started his professional baseball career on a high note, batting .336 and stealing 29 bases in 36 attempts. The following year, in 1977, while playing for the Athletics' Class-A California League in Modesto, Henderson batted .345 and set a league record in stolen bases with ninety-five. On 26 May 1977 he stole seven bases in one game, becoming only the fourth player in professional baseball to accomplish this feat. The Athletics continued to promote Henderson, and on 23 June 1979 he was in the starting lineup for the parent team.
Henderson's professional baseball career has been impressive. Since beginning in the major leagues he has hit over .300 in eight seasons (he also hit over .300 in his four years in the minors). Between 1980 and 1991 he was an All-Star player in all but one season. In 1981 he won the Gold Glove award for fielding, and in 1990 he received the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award. His record of stolen bases, though, is his most notable achievement in baseball. On 30 September 1980 he became only the third player in major league history to steal at least 100 bases in one season; he repeated this accomplishment in 1982 and 1983. On 26 August 1982 he stole four bases in a game against Milwaukee, thus passing Lou Brock's one-year record of 118. Henderson ended the 1982 season with 130 stolen bases in 149 games. On 4 June 1988, playing for the New York Yankees, Henderson stole his 249th base, breaking Hal Chase's lifetime record of 248. In 1989, again playing for Oakland, Henderson was named the American League Championship Series MVP. He reached base 14 times in 5 games and set a new record of 8 stolen bases in a postseason series.
His impressive numbers notwithstanding, Henderson has often been labeled a liability for baseball teams. Although he has spent most of his career in an Athletics uniform, he has been traded among various ball clubs, including the Yankees, the New York Mets, the Toronto Blue Jays, the San Diego Padres, and the Seattle Mariners. Complaining frequently about his salary, Henderson often has had conflicts with management. He has been accused of milking injuries and playing below his ability. As the Mets' general manager, Steve Phillips, said in May of 2000, "No matter how much talent you have, if you continue to create problems and situations, you wear out your welcome." At the same time Henderson generally is liked by his fellow players.
Still, Henderson has also been frequently criticized for seeking publicity at inappropriate moments, often waving to the fans and posing for their cameras during games. Having fun with the fans loosens Henderson up, as he is the first to admit. In fact, the first sentence in his autobiography is "Yes, I am a hot dog." Then he follows with "Ever hear of a hot dog who couldn't play?" Henderson takes pride in doing things out of the ordinary, such as jogging slowly around the bases after a home run, taking his time in the batter's box, and moving slowly to first base after a walk. "But that's just me," he says. "I'm just trying to have fun and approach the game the same way I've always approached it.… [T]hat's the way I've been able to show the fans a good time. Call it Rickey Time."
Henderson, regardless of whether one finds him entertaining or annoying, has produced numbers that rank him among the best baseball players of all time. At five feet, ten inches tall and 190 pounds, Henderson has always taken excellent care of his health. This, along with his confident attitude and obvious talent, has contributed to his success over a long career. As Newsweek 's George F. Will writes, "Baseball's history is written largely in numbers, and numbers say Henderson's may have been the most impressive all-round career in the last quarter century."
Henderson's autobiography, Off Base: Confessions of a Thief (1992), was edited by John Shea. Children's biographies include Paul Schleicher, Rickey Henderson: Sports Personalities ; Ann Bauleke, Rickey Henderson: Record Stealer (1991); and Mitsuko Herrera, Rickey Henderson. Articles about Henderson appear in books such as Baseball's Top 100: The Best Individual Seasons of All Time (1996).
Candice Mancini Knight