Rickey “The Man of Steal” Henderson

Rickey Henderson was a burden to all catchers.


            When people think “speedster”, they think Rickey Henderson. Henderson, nicknamed “The Man of Steal”, holds nearly every base stealing record in the MLB, including career stolen bases (1). Henderson played mainly for the Oakland Athletics (14 total seasons in 4 different stints) and the New York Yankees (4 seasons) but he also spent 1 individual year with the following teams: Toronto Blue Jays, Anaheim Angels, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Dodgers (1). Henderson also spent 2 years with the New York Mets and San Diego Padres (3 years total) (1).

Rickey Nelson Henley Henderson was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 25, 1958 to parents John L. and Bobbie Henley (1). When Rickey was 2 years old, his father John L. left home and died 10 years later in an automobile accident. Henderson’s mother married Paul Henderson, and the family adopted the Henderson name as their own (1). As a young boy in high school Henderson played basketball, baseball, football and track (1). Henderson had to quit track because it conflicted with baseball, and although Henderson received scholarship offers to play football, he turned them all down to play baseball; Henderson’s mother had explained to him that professional football players had shorter careers than professional baseball players (1). Henderson was drafted by the Oakland A’s in the fourth round of the 1976 MLB draft (1). He spent time with 4 of the minor league teams until the 1979 season when he played his first Major League season with the Oakland Athletics where he quickly made a splash (1).

On June 24, 1979 Rickey Henderson made his Major League debut with the Athletics (1). Henderson played just 89 games in the 1979 season, and still stole 33 bases that year (1). In 1980, Henderson’s first full season, he became the 3rd modern-era player to steal 100 bases (1).  Henderson later went on to break 100 steals two more times, including 133 in 1982 which is a record that still stands today (1). Henderson is the only person with 1,000 or more steals in his career and holds the record for all-time career steals at 1,406, which is over 50% more than the 2nd place person (Lou Brock with 938) (2). Henderson holds the Athletics all-time steals record and also held the Yankees all-time steals record until 2011 when Derek Jeter broke the record (1). Henderson led the league in stolen bases during 12 of his 25 years in the league (2), and was in the top 10 in steals in 21 of his seasons (1). On top of all the steals records Henderson holds, he’s also a 10 time all-star, with 2 World Series titles and 3 Silver Slugger awards (1). Henderson holds MLB records for career runs (2,295), career lead off home runs (81), and unintentional walks (2,129) (1). Henderson was voted into the Hall Of Fame in 2009 on his first ballot with a 94.8% vote (1).

Rickey Henderson after he broke the career stolen bases record.


            Henderson is still alive today at age 53. Henderson’s personality was one considered to be unexplainable. Henderson was known for referring to himself in the third person. There are many stories about Henderson including when a Padres teammate offered him a seat anywhere on the bus, saying that Henderson had tenure. Henderson replied, “Ten years? What are you talking about? Rickey got 16, 17 years,” (1). Another story about Henderson is when playing for Seattle in 2000, he commented on first baseman John Olerud’s ritual to wear a batting helmet while playing defense in practice, saying that a former teammate in Toronto used to do the same. Olerud replied, “That was me.” Olerud had played with Henderson the prior season for the New York Mets, and in 1993 on the World Champion Toronto Blue Jays team (1). Henderson was seen as many different things by people, but he saw himself as a “character,” (1). Despite his questionable personality, Henderson still lives on today, continuing the life of, on top of the best base stealer of all time, a more recent Hall Of Famers.


(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rickey_Henderson

(2) http://www.baseball-almanac.com/hitting/hisb1.shtml

(3) http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/h/henderi01.shtml

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