Friday, July 13, 2007

Rickey


The news arrived today that Rickey Henderson has been hired to the coaching staff of the New York Mets. You know, the team that knocked the Braves out of the top spot in the NL East last year. Man, how I love it when someone beats up on anything coming out of Georgia. But I digress...anyway, it did get me thinking about Rickey in his heyday. I don't really remember his best seasons in the early 80's when he made stealing over 100 bases in a season seem routine, although I think he came close to those stats in the late 80's as a member of the Yankees. I do remember how he made it look so easy though. Whenever he was on the bases, the game changed. Suddenly, the batter didn't seem nearly as important as Rickey leading off of first, just daring the pitcher to throw the ball. If there was ever a time that it would be relatively easy to be a major league batter, it must have been when Rickey was on base. He was so distracting to the pitcher that the batter must have had better pitches to hit.
In the late 90's as Rickey's performance began to decline, so did the art of base stealing. Everyone seemed to be caught up in the power displays of McGwire and company that stealing bases and stretching base hits into extra bases seemed to disappear. Everyone was trying to hit the ball out of the park. Heck, Nike even had a memorable commercial back then starring Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux trying to hit it out of the park. I believe the commercial was called something like "Chicks Dig The Long Ball".
If Rickey was best know for his prowess on the base path, he was almost as famous for talking about himself in the 3rd person. Always something like "Watch out, Rickey's going to steal second". I tried finding some quotes online, but the best I could come up with comes from just a few years ago when he called the San Diego Padres GM to let him know that Rickey still wanted to play. "This is Rickey calling on behalf of Rickey. Rickey wants to play baseball." Classic.
I don't know what Rickey Henderson will be like as a coach. I'd like to think that he might be a good influence on some of the younger players on the team. He's been a "special instructor" for the past couple of years in spring training, and he's been often attributed to the improvements seen with Jose Reyes, the current shortstop and leadoff hitter for the Mets (not to mention the major league stolen base leader). The Mets also have a few young guys coming up that could certainly benefit from that kind of instruction - especially Carlos Gomez, who I hear is even faster than Reyes. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. Hopefully it will be better than Rickey's stint with the Mets as a player around the beginning of the decade. That didn't go so well. I think the end was in 1999, when during the playoffs against Atlanta, he and Bobby Bonilla were playing cards in the clubhouse rather than associating with the rest of the team.
Finally, I came across a funny little article on ESPN's page two that I think epitomizes the personality that is Rickey Henderson. Enjoy....

4 comments:

CDV said...

Great post, Jason. I'll choose to take the higher ground and not rise to your immature goading of my Mighty Braves. Maybe when the Mets get a manager that can get thrown out as many times as Bobby Cox, they'll be a force to be reckoned with in the NL East.

Jason said...

This is Jason posting on behalf of Jason. Jason's glad you liked the post.

Anonymous said...

Since you said you couldn't find much in the way of Ricky Henderson quotes, here's the top 25 that I found...!

1) Rickey… on referring to himself in the third person:

“Listen, people are always saying, ‘Rickey says Rickey.’ But it’s been blown way out of proportion. People might catch me, when they know I’m ticked off, saying, ‘Rickey, what the heck are you doing, Rickey?’ They say, ‘Darn, Rickey, what are you saying Rickey for? Why don’t you just say, ‘I?’ But I never did. I always said, ‘Rickey,’ and it became something for people to joke about.”

2) In the early 1980s, the Oakland A’s accounting department was freaking out. The books were off $1 million. After an investigation, it was determined Rickey was the reason why. The GM asked him about a $1 million bonus he had received and Rickey said instead of cashing it, he framed it and hung it on a wall at his house.

3) In 1996, Henderson’s first season with San Diego, he boarded the team bus and was looking for a seat. Steve Finley said, “You have tenure, sit wherever you want.” Henderson looked at Finley and said, “Ten years? Ricky’s been playing at least 16, 17 years.”

4) This one might be my second favorite. This wasn’t too long ago, I think it was the year he ended up playing with the Red Sox. Anyway, he called San Diego GM Kevin Towers and left the following message: “This is Rickey calling on behalf of Rickey. Rickey wants to play baseball.”

5) This one happened in Seattle. Rickey struck out and as the next batter was walking past him, he heard Henderson say, “Don’t worry, Rickey, you’re still the best.”

6) Rickey once asked a teammate how long it would take him to drive to the Dominican Republic.

7) Moments after breaking Lou Brock’s stolen base record, Henderson told the crowd – with Brock mere feet next to him – “Lou Brock was a great base stealer, but today, I am the greatest of all-time.”

8) Henderson once fell asleep on an ice pack and got frostbite – which forced him to miss three games — in mid-August.

9) A reporter asked Henderson if Ken Caminiti’s estimate that 50 percent of Major League players were taking steroids was accurate. His response was, “Well, Rickey’s not one of them, so that’s 49 percent right there.”

10) Henderson broke Ty Cobb’s career record for runs scored with a home run. After taking his usual 45 seconds or so around the bases, Rickey slid into home plate.

11) On being Nolan Ryan’s 5,000th career strikeout: “It gave me no chance. He (Ryan) just blew it by me. But it’s an honor. I’ll have another paragraph in all the baseball books. I’m already in the books three or four times.”

12) San Diego GM Kevin Towers was trying to contact Rickey at a nearby hotel. He knew Henderson always used fake names to avoid the press, fans, etc. He was trying to think like Rickey and after several attempts; he was able to get Henderson on the phone.

Rickey had checked in under Richard Pryor.

13) I didn’t believe this one at first. However, I emailed a few contacts within the Sox organization and they claim it actually happened. This is priceless, it really is.

The morning after the Sox finished off the sweep against St. Louis last October, Henderson called someone in the organization looking for tickets to Game 6 at Fenway Park.

14) The Mets were staying in a hotel less than a mile from Cinergy Field in Cincinnati. While some players walked, most took the team bus. A few minutes after they arrived — again it was less than a mile – the last players off the bus noticed a stretched limo that had just pulled up.

Of course, Rickey emerged from the back seat.

15) A reporter once asked Rickey if he talked to himself, “Do I talk to myself? No, I just remind myself of what I’m trying to do. You know, I never answer myself so how can I be talking to myself?”

16) OK, I know everyone has been waiting for it. Alas, according to both parties involved, it’s not true. I wish it were. Heck, both Rickey Henderson and John Olerud have said they wish it were true. But it just didn’t happen.

The story went that a few weeks into Henderson’s stint with the Mariners, he walked up to Olerud at the batting cage and asked him why he wore a batting helmet in the field. Olerud explained that he had an aneurysm at nine years old and he wore the helmet for protection. Legend goes that Henderson said, “Yeah, I used to play with a guy that had the same thing.”

Legend also goes that Olerud said, “That was me, Rickey.”

Henderson played with Olerud on the Blue Jays and the Mets.

17) Rickey was asked if he had the Garth Brooks album with Friends in Low Places and Henderson said, “Rickey doesn’t have albums. Rickey has CDs.”

18) During a contract holdout with Oakland in the early 1990s, Henderson said, “If they want to pay me like Mike Gallego, I’ll play like Gallego.”

19) In the late 1980s, the Yankees sent Henderson a six-figure bonus check. After a few months passed, an internal audit revealed the check had not been cashed. Current Yankees GM Brian Cashman – then a low-level nobody with the organization – called Rickey and asked if there was a problem with the check. Henderson said, “I’m just waiting for the money market rates to go up.”

20) In June 1999, when Henderson was playing with the Mets, he saw reporters running around the clubhouse before a game. He asked a teammate what was going on and he was told that Tom Robson, the team’s hitting coach, had just been fired. Henderson said, “Who’s he?”

21) This is my all-time favorite. Rickey was pulled over by a San Diego police officer for speeding. As the officer was approaching Rickey’s car, the window went down a few inches and a folded $100 bill emerged. The officer let Rickey and his money head home without a ticket.

22) When he was on the Yankees in the mid-1980s, Henderson told teammates that his condo had such a great view that he could see, “The Entire State Building.”

23) During one of his stays with Oakland, Henderson’s locker was next to Billy Beane’s. After making the team out of spring training, Beane was sent to the minors after a few months. Upon his return, about six weeks later, Henderson looked at Beane and said, “Hey, man, where have you been? Haven’t seen you in awhile.”

24) To this day and dating back 25 years, before every game he plays, Henderson stands completely naked in front of a full length locker room mirror and says, “Ricky’s the best,” for several minutes.

25) In the last week of his lone season with the Red Sox, Chairman Tom Werner asked Henderson what he would like for his ‘going-away’ gift. Henderson said he wasn’t going anywhere, but he would like owner John Henry’s Mercedes. Werner said it would be tough to get the same make and model in less than a week and Henderson said, “No, I want his car.” Turns out the Sox got Henderson a Red Thunderbird and when he saw it on the field before the last game of the season, Rickey said, “Whose ugly car is on the field?”

Ethan said...

so yeah.... Ethan here.

i'm glad you like the last name of Meyer.... I've come pretty fond of it myself through the years, but you cant really say its the last name you like the most.

See, its a short german like name "Meyer.." what would be REALLY F'in cool is if you had a name like Antonio Banderas.... now THATS a pimp ass pimp name. Anytime you say it, you have to have the spanish accent... "I am ANT-ONIO BAN-DERAS... and i gotta take a dump." Even in a vulger sentence like that, its just PIMP.

Ok.... that is all Ethan has to say.