"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

For The Love Of The Game

When I first started following the Yankees, their lineup began with Rickey Henderson, Willie Randolph, Don Mattingly, and Dave Winfield. Though Winfield was my favorite player, Mattingly was the most popular, and Randolph was the two-time World Champion veteran, Rickey Henderson likely did more to cultivate my love of baseball than any of the other three. Time and again, Rickey would lead off the game with a walk or a single, steal second, move to third on a productive out by Randolph, and score on a single or sac fly by Mattingly or Winfield. The exceptions were when Rickey would lead off the game with a homer, something he did 81 times in his career, or when he’d steal both second and third, letting Randolph drive him in. In 596 games as a Yankee, Henderson scored 513 runs, drew 406 walks, and stole 326 bases.

Fourteen years after Henderson was traded back to the A’s, Rickey was playing for the Newark Bears, the independent Altantic League team owned by his former Yankee teammate Rick Cerone. I remember reading that Rickey’s monthly salary from the Bears didn’t even cover the rent for the Manhattan apartment he was living in at the time. Rickey was ostensibly playing to get one more shot at the major leagues, but he had already set career records in stolen bases, runs, and walks, and owned 3,040 major league hits. Though he did finish the 2003 season by playing his final 30 major league games for the Dodgers, Rickey was playing to play, just as he did two years later with the San Diego Surf Dawgs.

One weekend in July of 2003, I went with a friend’s brother’s bachelor party to see Rickey play for the Bears against the Mitch Williams-managed Atlantic City Surf. Rickey was having a ball. Before the game he took time out to sign autographs along the first base line.

No, I didn't get an autograph.

During the top of the first he chatted and joked with the fans along the left field line between pitches.

Then he led off the bottom of the first.

That familiar crouch

And that familiar swing.

Just as he had for the Yankees, Rickey walked . . .

At full speed from his first step.

Stole second . . .

Well ahead of the throw.

. . . moved to third on the catcher’s errant throw, and, following a walk to the second-place hitter, scored on a fielder’s choice to the shortstop.

Three batters into the game, I had already gotten my money’s worth.

Not long after that game, Henderson signed with the Dodgers. On September 13, 2003, Henderson pinch-hit for Guillermo Mota in the seventh inning of a game between the Dodgers and Giants at Dodger Stadium. Rickey was hit by a pitch, moved to second on a bunt, to third on a groundout, and scored on a Shawn Green single. He was then replaced by Paul Quantrill, who came in to pitch the next inning. The last thing Rickey Henderson ever did in the major leagues was score a run. As it should have been.

all photographs (c) Clifford J. Corcoran; click to enlarge

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1 Raf   ~  Jan 12, 2009 2:21 pm

Rickey & Rice, as was pretty much expected...

2 Shaun P.   ~  Jan 12, 2009 2:35 pm

[1] Yeah. Good for Rickey. I can't wait to hear that speech.

I imagine MLB Network will carry the entire induction ceremony, so I won't have to rely on the ESPN family of networks to get bits and pieces.

3 MichiganYankee   ~  Jan 12, 2009 3:12 pm

Cliff, you must have missed my post last Friday. baseball-reference.com (http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/NYY/1985_bo.shtml) seems to belie your memory. The 1985 Yanks led off with Henderson-Randolph-Mattingly-Winfield on 21 times (Apr. 23-28, May 30-June 7 and 7 scattered dates). Much more common front fours were Henderson-Griffey-Mattingly-Winfield and Henderson-Mattingly-Winfield-Baylor. Randolph generally batted 6th or 7th.

4 MichiganYankee   ~  Jan 12, 2009 3:21 pm

[3] I just took a closer look and noticed that, by late July, Billy had settled into a pattern of using Henderson-Griffey-Mattingly-Winfield against righties and Henderson-Mattingly-Winfield-Baylor against lefties.

5 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jan 12, 2009 3:28 pm

I don't want to bicker over this, but Rickey was a Yankee for 4 1/2 seasons. The top four I described were the most-common line-up in 1986 and a very common occurrence from 1985-1988.

6 Raf   ~  Jan 12, 2009 3:40 pm

[2] I was under the impression that ESPN usually broadcasts the induction ceremonies? Having said that, I do expect the MLB Network to do it this year.

7 PJ   ~  Jan 12, 2009 3:40 pm

I'm grateful to have watched Ricky Henderson play and man, could he ever! I wonder if he's allowed to choose which team's cap he will be enshrined in and which one it will be. We all know which one Reggie and Goose have. Alas, Jim Hunter's cap in the HoF is blank...

Congratulations to the "Man of Steal"!


8 rbj   ~  Jan 12, 2009 3:49 pm

Just Rickey being Rickey.

9 MichiganYankee   ~  Jan 12, 2009 4:11 pm

[5] In 1986, Rickey's OBP was .358, so your scenario could hardly have been a daily occurrance. 1987 is a much better match. Even though Rickey only started 90 games, he was generally followed by Randolph-Mattingly-Winfield, and his OBP was a sizzling .423.

10 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jan 12, 2009 4:41 pm

Wow. Really? You need to be that pedantic about this? Did I name a year or give you any other reason to believe that what I wrote was analysis rather than anecdote? If I screw up a fact, let me know, but that's not the case here. I'm relaying a memory, an anecdote, and one that holds up just fine to a fact check (yes, the Yankees did use that lineup with some frequency, yes that sequence of events described did often result from that lineup). Relax and enjoy the story and the photos, or don't and go do something else.

What hath Fire Joe Morgan wrought?

11 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jan 12, 2009 4:42 pm

PJ, Rickey's going in as an Athletic. No doubt about it.

12 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 12, 2009 4:54 pm

I think he should just wear a cap that says RICKEY in bold letters with the logos of every team he ever played for.

13 OldYanksFan   ~  Jan 12, 2009 6:02 pm

Rickey was an Oakland A for ALMOST half of his 25 year career.

Black Ink: Batting - 20 (105) (Average HOFer ≈ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting - 114 (178) (Average HOFer ≈ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting - 46.6 (93) (Average HOFer ≈ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting - 89.5 (178) (Likely HOFer > 100)

Black Ink: Batting - 33 (49) (Average HOFer ≈ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting - 176 (57) (Average HOFer ≈ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting - 43.0 (114) (Average HOFer ≈ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting - 144.5 (89) (Likely HOFer > 100)

Donnie Baseball
Black Ink: Batting - 23 (85) (Average HOFer ≈ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting - 111 (187) (Average HOFer ≈ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting - 34.2 (201) (Average HOFer ≈ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting - 133.5 (98) (Likely HOFer > 100)
Overall Rank in parentheses.

Jeter (just for fun)
Black Ink: Batting - 6 (331) (Average HOFer ≈ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting - 116 (172) (Average HOFer ≈ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting - 53.9 (55) (Average HOFer ≈ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting - 238.0 (25) (Likely HOFer > 100)


In looking at the defintions:
... SS's and C's get extra points, which is weird, because they are compared to other SS's and C's.
... Points are also given for PS appearances... which is nuts.
.... Defensive does not get a lot of weight, and again, is heavily slanted to SS's and C's. First basemen get VERY little credit. So if Gehrig single-handedly got his team into the PS 10 years in a row, his SS and C will benefit more then him.

I understand the intent of these numbers, but they need work.
"5 points if they were the regular SS or C on a League Championship (but not WS) team, 3 points for 2B or CF, 1 for 3B. I don't have the OF distribution, so I give 1 points for OF.
2 points if they were the regular SS or C on a Division Championship team (but not WS or LCS), 1 points for 2B, CF, or 3B. I don't have the OF distribution, so I give 1 points for OF"

I mean, how many points does Jeter get on those 2 rules?
P.S. Raines misses in every category by 10-25%

14 Bruce Markusen   ~  Jan 12, 2009 6:23 pm

The Hall used to allow players to pick the logos on their plaques, but decided to step in when Wade Boggs had a clause put into his Tampa Bay contract that he would enter the Hall as a Devil Ray. As Cliff indicated, the Hall will definitely pick Oakland. Even if Henderson did have the choice, I think he'd still pick the A's.

I have mixed feelings about Rickey as a Yankee. At his best, he was the most dynamic leadoff man they've ever had. He also hit with terrific power for the Yankees, reaching the 20-home run plateau on two or three occasions. Remarkably, he hit 297 home runs for his career, which coupled with his walks and stolen bases, made him the ultimate ignitor.

Then there was the 1989 season. Henderson did not like playing for Dallas Green and basically tanked the first half of the season. Not only did his offensive numbers suffer, but he ran the bases half-heartedly at times and running after balls lazily in left field. It was blatant; I can remember him on several occasions just jogging on base hits toward left field. With free agency impending, the Yankees didn't want to risk losing him for nothing, so they settled for a package that was below market value (Polonia, Cadaret, Plunk).

Things might have been different if Billy Martin had lived and had come back to manage Henderson. Rickey was at his best playing for Billy.

15 monkeypants   ~  Jan 12, 2009 6:26 pm

[13] Do you understand the "intent" of the numbers? I thought that the grey ink test, black ink test, etc. were merely predictors of whom the writers will pick (based on historical trends), not whom they *should* pick.

As such, certain types of players and certain positions continue to be over/underrepresented.

16 monkeypants   ~  Jan 12, 2009 6:28 pm

[13] From Baseball-reference:

"Hall of Fame Monitor

This is another Jamesian creation. It attempts to assess how likely (not how deserving) an active player is to make the Hall of Fame."

17 OldYanksFan   ~  Jan 12, 2009 7:01 pm

Jeez.... so we have a statistic to demostrate how incompetent the BWAA is? Has anyone put together a stat or formula for how deserving a player is?

18 OldYanksFan   ~  Jan 12, 2009 7:04 pm

Jeez... I guess that's: BBWAA.
I guess Bowlers got there first.

19 monkeypants   ~  Jan 12, 2009 7:15 pm

{17] "Has anyone put together a stat or formula for how deserving a player is?"

OPS+? ERA+? RCAA? etc.

Of course there can never be a single stat that determines how deserving a player is for the HOF, though new metrics are constantly being developed that help us evaluate how valuable a player is--and for how long. Moreover, I would not want the HOF reduced to a single formula, essentially an automatic algorithm.

That being said, historical predictors like the ones James has developed do serve a valuable purpose in highlighting biases in the voting process. Our job now as serious fans and sports writers is to call attention to how traditional HOF-marker stats overvalue or undervalue certain players.

Just from this year, Rickey is arguable one of the best players all-time--certainly one of the top few LF ever--yet his HOF monitor score is relatively low. Why? Because OBP and walks and runs are not as "valuable" in the minds of the voters as HR and RBI and a .300 BA.

20 OldYanksFan   ~  Jan 12, 2009 7:55 pm

[19] Actually, at one time, I wanted to put together an 'overall rating' stat, that, like the 'HOF stats', were some combination of various stats like: 20% OPS+ plus 5% (some combos of SBs and CS%) + 25% (combination of defensive stats) + 10% OBP + 10% RCAA + 5% grittyness, etc, etc.

At one time I thought that Winshares mght be 'The Stat' for across the board player comparison/evaluation... but it seems that stat is flawed.

One of the problems with discussions (less so here but on many other blogs) is people arguing that Player A is better then Player B, by using one or two stats to make their case. Obviously, you must look at many stats, and give certain weights to each, to try and come up with a valid evaluation.

Actually, I think it would be fun to try and put that together, and would lead to an interesting discussion of which stats carry the most weight, and what balance of stats best describes the 'ultimate' player.

21 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 12, 2009 7:56 pm

[18] Bwaa-haa-haah!... come to think of it, if the writers and bowlers fought over this or anything in general, would that be a Bwaahaha or a Bbwaahaha?

(maybe Diane would know... >;)

22 Bama Yankee   ~  Jan 12, 2009 9:09 pm

[21] If the writers and bowlers ever did fight, who would prevail? Is the pen mightier than... the pin? ;-)

23 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 12, 2009 9:25 pm

[22] I think the odds would be 7-10; the bowlers getting a seven-ten split and the writers splitting at 7:10... >;)

24 jorgie juiced one   ~  Jan 12, 2009 10:00 pm

Not only an all-time great, but an all-time great Yankee during my 30 years as a fan. Good to see the mid-80s Rickey-Mattingly-Winfield Yanks getting their due. They were great to root for and fun to watch...if only Righetti hadn't been moved out of the rotation at age 24...but that's another story. It's strange to read of revisionist history as to how "awful" the Yankees were during the 80s. Actually they were bad from 1989-92.

It was apparently obvious to many of us who remember that we were watching a uniquely great player when Rickey was a Yankee. However, the media's coverage of him was decidedly negative during his Yankees tenure (not just 89 before he was traded, a period that Bruce recalls above). They didn't get him and seemed to resent him. Later when he broke the all-time SB record, I recall how much slack he got for his "greatest of all-time" remark, when it was clear to me that he didn't intend it in the way it was portrayed. It's interesting now seeing the establishment media - largely comprised of different people - give Rickey his due not only as a player but as a person. While it's somewhat revisionist, I'm glad to see Rickey receive the proper acclaim.

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