A Dozen (Mostly) True Facts About Rickey Henderson

Old Timey Base Stealing

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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Mike Bates used to have a stupid pseudonym. Now he doesn't because people want to pay him to write about baseball on the Internet and he's really a sell out that way. He is also a Designated Columnist at SBNation, co-founder of The Platoon Advantage, and is an American Carpetbagger on Getting Blanked, the finest in Canadian baseball-type sites. His favorite word is paradigm. Follow him on Twitter here: http://www.twitter.com/commnman


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Clayton
Member
Clayton

I think you didn’t finish up the Olerud story.

tz
Guest
tz

Thanks! I really appreciate learning about these turn-of-the-century players, who so often don’t get their proper due.

Clayton
Member
Clayton

I should correct myself, I caught the reference but I suppose maybe some readers wouldn’t. Perhaps I underestimate my fellow fangraphers.

nickolai
Guest
nickolai

Those career totals are insane! But as you say, the game was so different then, vs. what it is today. I wish there was some sort of machine that could allow us to go back in time and watch him play.

Oh, Beepy.
Guest
Oh, Beepy.

For a while I thought I got it, but then it hit me that I don’t get it.

Rickey Henderson: Greatest of All Time

Robert J. Baumann
Guest

That’s the only thing that there is to get. Ever.

Krog
Member
Krog

Rickey first displayed his uncanny speed while running to the outhouse during the frigid winters of his youth in Oakland, California.

Bab
Guest
Bab

I think I might not be the only one confused by the Olerud story. The punchline was that Olerud and Henderson were teammates in Toronto, and Olerud perfectly deadpanned it.

Bab
Guest
Bab

Unless you’re operating in a sort of revisionist irony that is obtusely humorous.

AC
Guest
AC

Favorite Ricky Henderson story for me it was when he was with the Padres. As the Story goes the team gets on the bus and Bruce Bouchy tells everyone that tenure players get first pick of where they want to sit, Ricky turns to Tony Gwynn and says:”hey T Ricky aint ten year, ricky is 15 years”

Derek
Guest
Derek

Here’s another fact as I recall: Ricky’s outfield assists were so low because he just ran the ball in to tag the runner rather than throw, thanks to a weak throwing arm.

Mississippi Matt Smith
Member

His name was Rickey Nelson Henley Henderson. So if you split him in two, you’d have Rickey Nelson and Henley Henderson. I see no reason those couldn’t be Hall of Famers.

DerekJeterGiftBasket
Guest
DerekJeterGiftBasket

The story is that Charley O Finley once watched Rickey steal beef jerky from a 7-11. He caught up to Rickey and said “son, do you think you could do that with bases?”

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