Oh, Rickey, He’s So Fine

rickey henderson.JPGThe only disappointing thing about Rickey Henderson being admitted to the Hall of Fame is the fact he’ll be going in alongside long-time Red Sox fan favorite Jim Rice.  Don’t get me wrong, dear readers.  I have absolutely nothing against Jim Rice, as a person or as a player; in fact, I would even say he deserves to be included in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.

Thing is: I feel sorry for him and the subsequent upstaging he’ll be forced to endure come July.  I mean, Rickey Henderson is the “greatest of all-time”. 

Okay, well, maybe he meant he was the greatest base-stealer of all-time.  In any case, I think we all know how much swagger Henderson brings to any field, locker room, podium.  The man has always been the cynosure of self-confidence, the quintessential self-promoter, the Barack Obama of baseball perhaps.

And that’s why I’m already salivating at the unscripted heroics of his forthcoming acceptance speech this summer.

Verily, I think we all have our favorite Rickey Henderson story.  Whether it’s his persistent third person self-references, sliding into home plate after hitting a homerun or his penchant for talking to himself in the most supportive of ways like “Don’t worry, Rickey.  You’re still the best”, I think we can all agree that his undying, unwavering, unparalleled belief in all-things Rickey Henderson made him the greatest lead-off hitter of all-time and an icon for baseball fans like myself.

I, too, have had the luxury of owning personal Rickey Henderson memories — memories that I will always hold dear to my heart.  Henderson’s career started the same year my life did and I can’t ever remember not being mesmerized by his speed, his bat, his patience at the plate.  For someone so fast, I never could get over how many pitches he was able to take in order to wear a pitcher down early.  And though I had no affiliation to the teams with which Henderson played, I remember coveting his baseball cards and having the sudden need to check box scores of A’s (and later Yankees) games to see how many bases he’d stolen, how many homeruns he’d hit.

So when I finally had the chance to see Rickey Henderson play in person during the 2003 season while living in Los Angeles, I told my buddy before the home half of the first: “Wouldn’t it be something if Rickey led off with a homerun?”

And by golly he did it.

Watching him jog around the bases brought an indescribable chill up my spine and a few man-tears to my eye.

I said a few.  Gimme a break.  I love this friggin’ game.

But that wasn’t the end of my personal Henderson drama.  Before a 2007 Saturday afternoon game at Wrigley pitting the Mets against the Cubs, I made it out to the left field wall for batting practice and was pleasantly surprised to see none other than Rickey himself shagging fly balls.

“Hey, Rickey, when ya gonna make another comeback?” I yelled from about 20 feet away.

“Hey, Rickey, you’re the greatest of all-time!”

“Hey, Rickey, you’re a first ballot Hall of Famer!”

After ten minutes of relentless hollers, Rickey finally acknowledged my existence with a simple yet earnestly eloquent: “Rickey fine!”

Indeed, Rickey fine.

So, so fine.

So don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.





  1. juliasrants

    Jeffy, one of our local reporters asked Jim Rice about going into Cooperstown with Rickey and about what he thought Rickey would say. Rice just laughed and said he wouldn’t have to worry about talking that day! I hope that let Rice go first or he won’t get a word in. Congrats on the #1 ranking in the new leaderboard!


  2. Elizabeth D.

    Those are some great stories! Nice call on the lead-off home run (indirectly, but still). I love calling home runs, and hollering at players. When I sat on the monst-ah at Fenway, I got Manny to wave to me, and also Dustin (sitting near the dugout) and then he hit a two run homer. I really wish I could’ve seen Rickey Henderson play for longer…

  3. redstatebluestate

    Julia — Yeah, Rickey better go last otherwise no one will even know that Rice is there.
    RR — Jeff appreciates RR’s kind words. Jeff says ‘thanks!’
    Redbirdchatter — DOUBLE SWEET!
    Elizabeth — Rickey was a delight to watch. Before Manny being Manny, Ricked was being Rickey.

  4. raysrenegade

    Awesome “Rickey” story. He is truly an original.

    Rickey might be the first person ever to give a speech and hear some sort of music trying to get him off stage. Hey, that would be a great sound byte gag.

    If I were Rickey, I would get a local high school band to stand behind the stage and after 5 minutes start playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” That would make a memorable send off and a great way to make the entire crowd love “Rickey” more than ever for being clever.

    I might just send that idea to him………….what is that email again?

    Rickeyisthegreatestbasestealerintheworldandcanhittoo@ yahoo.com

    Rays Renegade


  5. redstatebluestate

    Kaybee — One of the best I’ve ever seen… hands down.
    Renegade — I’ll send an email off and see if I can get that band booked. I’m sure he’ll enjoy that 😉

  6. welikeroywelikeroy

    In his prime, Ricky could do it all. Steal bases, play great outfield and even drive in runs and hit homers. He might have forget who he was playing with sometimes (bouncing around from team to team i.e. John Olerud), but was an outstanding talent and deservant of the Hall.

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