Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Henderson, was born in Chicago, but grew up in the city of Oakland, California and became friends with Oakland Athletics owner Charles O. Finley as a boy. Henderson, blessed with speed and explosiveness, was eventually drafted by Oakland in 1976 and worked his way through the minor leagues in just three seasons. He made his big league debut with Oakland on June 24, 1979.
Henderson batted .274 with 33 stolen bases in little more than half a season and was a strong Rookie of the Year candidate in 1979. Finley hired legendary manager Billy Martin in 1980, and his "Billy-Ball" propelled Rickey into stardom, when he became one of the few players to ever steal 100 bases in a season. He was an MVP candidate a year later, when he hit .319, fourth in the American League, and again led the league in steals with 56 in a season shortened by a players' strike. Finishing second to Rollie Fingers, Henderson's flashy fielding that season also earned him his only Gold Glove.
Henderson set a modern major league record, still standing, with 130 stolen bases in 1982. He also continued to develop as a hitter, and even began to hit for some power. In 1985, he was traded to the New York Yankees, and that year he scored 146 runs in just 142 games, with 24 home runs and 80 steals. He later hit as many as 28 homers in a single season.
He had an off-season, by his standards, in 1989, caused somewhat by restless Yankee fans and media dogging him, but bounced back during the postseason after being traded back to Oakland mid-year. He was MVP of the American League Championship Series and led the A's to their first World Series title since 1974.
A year later, he finished second in the league in batting average with a mark of .325, losing out to George Brett on the final day of the season. Nevertheless, with 119 runs scored, 28 homers, 61 RBI and 65 stolen bases, he won the MVP award and helped Oakland to another pennant.
On May 1, 1991, Henderson broke one of baseball's most famous records when he stole the 939th base of his career, one more than Lou Brock. However, Henderson's achievement was somewhat overshadowed because Nolan Ryan, at age 44, set a record that same night by throwing a no-hitter against Toronto, the seventh of his career. Two years earlier, Ryan had also achieved glory at Henderson's expense by making him his 5,000th strikeout victim. Rickey also took some heat for his famous speech afterwards where, with Brock looking on from the field, he proclaimed, "Lou Brock was a great base stealer, but today, I am the greatest!" As it now stands, however, Henderson has almost 50% more stolen bases than Brock.
In his prime, Henderson had a virtual monopoly on the stolen base title in the American League. Between 1980 and 1991, he led the league in SB's every season except 1987, when an injury caused him to lose the title to Seattle Mariners second baseman Harold Reynolds.
Henderson went on to have many more good seasons, and earned a second ring with the Toronto Blue Jays, who acquired him in midseason from Oakland, in 1993. He returned to Oakland after the season for two years, and made a 3rd return to Oakland in 1998, where he led the American League in stolen bases for a record 12th time at age 39. During the 2001 season, as a member of the San Diego Padres, Henderson broke 2 major league records and reached a career milestone. He broke Babe Ruth's all-time record for walks, Ty Cobb's all-time record for runs (doing so with a home run), and on the final day of the season, during Padre legend Tony Gwynn's last major league game, Rickey garnered his 3,000th career hit.
Rickey played with the Boston Red Sox in 2002, where he became the oldest player to play centerfield in major league history. It was the 8th organization he played for in his career, having also played with the Anaheim Angels, New York Mets, and Seattle Mariners.
He started 2003 playing in the independent Atlantic League with the Newark Bears, hoping for a chance with another major league organization. Rickey got that chance (after much big media attention in the meantime) when the Los Angeles Dodgers signed him to their roster over the All-Star break.
So far, Rickey ranks 4th all-time in games played (3,081), 10th in at-bats (10,961), 20th in hits (3,055), and first in runs scored (2,295), and stolen bases (1,406). His record for most walks all-time (2,190) has since been broken by Barry Bonds. He also holds the record for most home runs to lead off a game, with 81.
Although he has not played in a major league game since 2003, Henderson has yet to officially retire from professional baseball; for the second consecutive season, he started 2004 with the Newark Bears.
Henderson has one especially unusual feature: he throws left-handed and bats right-handed. Many right-handed throwers bat left-handed, but the opposite is extremely rare, especially among non-pitchers. Another left-handed thrower who batted right-handed was former Yale baseball player and future President George H. W. Bush. Explaining how that happened, Rickey once said, "All the other kids playing around me were batting right-handed, so that's the way I thought you were supposed to do it, so that's what I did, too. At one point, I wanted to be a switch-hitter and try the left side, but I was hitting .300, .350 in the minors, and they (the A's) wouldn't let me do it."
Many stories have been told about Rickey Henderson over the years, both the player and person, most of which are true. He is well known for his malapropisms, for referring to himself in the third-person, and for talking to himself at length when he is up to bat. One widely reported story, however, is by all accounts a fabrication. Supposedly while playing for Seattle, Henderson went up to John Olerud, a former teammate with the New York Mets, and asked why Olerud wore a batting helmet out on the field, noting that he, "Used to have a teammate in New York who did the same thing." To which Olerud replied, "That was me." A funny story, to be sure, but one apparently invented by a third party; both Henderson and Olerud have denied it ever happened.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details