Newly inducted Hall-of-Famer Rickey Henderson left his mark on the San Diego Padres, breaking at least two all-time Major League records while he was a Friar.
On Sunday, the brash, flamboyant Henderson was humbled by it all when he was inducted with the Baseball Hall of Fame alongside Red Sox great Jim Rice. The former left fielders were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday along with the late Joe Gordon, and Henderson, baseball's all-time leading base stealer, was briefly overcome before evoking some hearty laughs.
Baseball's greatest leadoff hitter, Henderson wore a Padres jersey for three seasons, '96, '97 and 2001. It was during 2001, though, that Rickey set the all-time walks record, besting Babe Ruth's record, and the all-time runs record (so long, Ty Cobb). Henderson, of course, was also known for stealing bases -- he retired with a record 1,406, more than 468 more than his closest rival, former St. Louis Cardinals star Lou Brock
619Sports.net's Craig Elsten has some special memories of that season:
Signed as a backup, Henderson played sparingly in April, and on April 25, the night he tied Babe Ruth’s all-time walks record, Henderson was batting just .111 and we were wondering if he would be released before too long.
Instead, Rickey was about to insert himself into the everyday lineup and light a spark that would last for most of the summer. In May, injuries forced the Padres into an everyday outfield of Henderson, Mark Kotsay and Bubba Trammell. For that month, really for the last time in his career, Rickey played every day and was his old self. He had a .402 on-base percentage, drew 22 walks, hit four homers (picking at his jersey every time, classic Rickey), stole seven bases in eight tries and scored 23 runs in 25 games.
Forty-two years old, still sliding headfirst, snatch-catching in left, smiling and talking to himself at home plate. Rickey’s greatness was always evident but often overshadowed by his colorful antics and run-ins with managers earlier in his career, and by the steroid sluggers who filled the headlines at the end of his playing days. But the thing that he always showed me on the field was joy. True joy for playing the game, joy for performing in front of fans, for connecting with the crowds that loved him. In May of 2001, everyone watching the Padres saw a surprise repeat performance of that joy.
Rickey Henderson kept his on-base percentage over .400 for a good part of the summer, but as the year wore on, he wore down. Then, down the stretch, with two records in his sight, Rickey got another chance to play regularly. In September and October of that year, as we were counting down Gwynn’s last days and anticipating his pinch-hitting appearances, Henderson again stole the show. He batted .278 in September and October of that year, reached base at a .444 clip and stole nine more bases, finishing with 25 steals in 32 tries for the season. At 42, Rickey could still get on, he could still steal a base, and he could still score a run for his team.
On Oct. 5, a sunny afternoon at the Q, Rickey launched a low line drive off of Dodgers’ starter Luke Prokopec, which bounced off the top of the left-field wall and over for a home run, breaking Ty Cobb’s all-time runs record. A banner unfurled out by the Jumbotron revealed Henderson as the all-time runs leader, but then, with his teammates circling home plate waiting for him to touch home, Rickey showed the flair which defined his career, THE single greatest thing I’ve seen for spontaneous celebration at a ball game. Rickey slid into home plate at the end of his home run trot. He slid into home! Tony Gwynn gave him a gold plate, which he held over his head. But that homer and sliding into home plate still makes me smile thinking about it eight years later.
"My journey as a player is complete," Henderson said on Sunday in Cooperstown. "I am now in the class of the greatest players of all time, and at this moment I am very humbled."
Born in Chicago on Christmas 1958, Henderson moved with his family to California when he was 7 and became a three-sport star at Oakland Technical High. Football was his forte and he received numerous scholarships. He was persuaded to turn them down for a shot at baseball.
Henderson led the American League in steals 12 times and also holds the records for unintentional walks, with 2,129, and home runs leading off a game, with 81. He played for nine teams during a 25-year career.
Henderson was drafted by Oakland in the fourth round of the 1976 draft and made his Major League debut with the Athletics in late June 1979. It was a day Henderson said he would never forget.
When the A's hired Billy Martin as manager in 1980, it helped catapult Henderson to stardom in Martin's "Billyball" aggressive attack.
Henderson had to stop briefly in his speech when remembering Martin, who was killed in a car crash in 1989.
"Billy always got the most out of me," he said. "Billy, I miss you so much and I wish you were here today."
In 1980, Henderson became the first AL player to steal 100 bases in a season with 100 to break Ty Cobb's record of 96 steals in 1915. In 1982, he set the modern Major League record for stolen bases with 130, breaking Brock's mark of 118.