Pictured Above: Old-Timey Basestealing
Today, a public service. This, dear readers, is a baseball player named Rickey Henderson. You probably haven’t heard of him. He was a fairly well known player prior to the turn of the century, so you could hardly be expected to remember him, and he was elected to the Hall of Fame, where he’s enshrined with other great stars of yesteryear like Ed Delahanty, Amos Rusie, and Tommy McCarthy. He has faded into relative historical obscurity.
But that’s not very fair to a man who was, by all accounts, one of the better out fielders of his day. So I’m going to dedicate this post to maintaining his memory and to spreading the word. Based on painstaking research, here are a dozen (mostly) true facts about Rickey Henderson:
1) Rickey Henderson is the all time leader in runs (2295), stolen bases (1406), and caught stealing (335). The modern record holders are Albert Pujols (1399), Juan Pierre (597), and Juan Pierre (193). It was a different game back then.
2) This story is probably apocryphal, its origins lost to the mists of time. But Rickey signed as a free agent with the New York Metropolitans in 1999. During Spring Training, he noticed John Olerud was playing 1B with a batting helmet on. Rickey walked over to him and said, “Hey, I used to play with a guy in Toronto who used to do that.” Olerud said, “Rickey, you’ve got an amazing memory to be able to remember that far back.” “I know,” Rickey said. “My teammates are more important to me than anything in the world.”
3) Rickey got on base in more than 86% of those games in which he got at least one plate appearance.
4) In those games in which he got at least one plate appearance, he stole a base in more than a third of them (33.6%).
5) Rickey Henderson is credited with stealing 130 bases in 1982, but records were shoddily kept in those early days, and it’s entirely possible that some games are being double counted, or that his statistics in barnstorming exhibitions are also included.
6) We know of at least 61 regular season games in 1982 in which Rickey did not attempt a steal. He was sitting on the bench for 13 of those games, and sitting down on first base out of a sense of fairness in the other ones, as he did not feel like making the other team feel bad.
7) Rickey Henderson led the American League in stolen bases (66) and walks (118) when he was allegedly 39 years old. However, again, due to shoddy record keeping in the early days of baseball, we’ve never been able to get more than an approximate birth year.
8) It’s said, during the great land grabs of the early ‘80s, Rickey Henderson stole four homes out from under other homesteaders. This has not been corroborated by any kind of documentation.
9) Henderson has been blessed to have three daughters. All of whom would embarrass you in a footrace.
10) Even after no Major League team wanted him, Rickey kept playing minor league ball until he was 46, because that’s what ballplayers did back then.
11) Bill James once said, “If you split him in two, you’d have two Hall of Famers.” But this is not true. Because that would probably kill Rickey Henderson, depending on which way you split him.
12) Despite the widespread belief that he was so grandiose and arrogant that he only talked in the third person, this is not true about Rickey Henderson. Evidence:
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