When Crazy Was Really Crazy And Men Stole Bases
The best thing about Rickey Henderson was that he never was on a team he didn’t think he could lead. If you asked him, he’d probably tell you that if you were making an all-time great team, he’d be your starting left fielder and he’d be at the top of the order.
He at least has a case.
The man who many called one of the most challenging opponents ever in the history of baseball will likely get the call today to be enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot. Few in history have had the kind of impact on the game that Henderson did.
He was a sabermetricians’ dream, the ultimate Moneyball player before anyone had heard of Moneyball. He had a .401 career on-base percentage, scored at least 100 runs 13 times and still would own the career walks record (to accompany his steals and runs records) if not for Bonds’ intentional-walk-a-thon from 2002 to 2004.
Rickey had 3,055 hits but wasn’t just another singles hitter. He had 510 doubles and 297 homers, 81 coming when he led off the first inning.
The first and assuredly last time Henderson will be on the ballot will also be the last time 1978 MVP Jim Rice will be allowed for consideration. For the last 15 years, Rice has had his named come up but never called into the Hall. He definitely does not have the gaudy career stats of other dominant players who played his same position, but no one drove in more runs from 1975-1986, and no one was more feared as a hitter in that time.
I personally am glad I don’t have to vote, because I think I’d still vote “no”. I like my Hall exclusive and snobby. Just like how I treat my friends when they come over. “Sorry, man, you’re not on the list. I can overlook this with some Dr. Pepper, though.”
On a personal note, this year of voting is a pretty noteworthy day for me, because as a kid, Rickey was my first favorite player and the one that always made me stop to watch the TV when he came to bat. His crouched style, absurd leadoffs from first, and his flair for the dangerous with his headfirst slides was irresistible as a child.
I’m proud to say that when people describe how his career ended, they have to say he left the game as a Dodger.