Will Anyone Break the Records Set By Oakland Athletics’ Rickey Henderson?
On this day in 1982, Ricky Henderson broke Lou Brock’s single-season stolen base record when he swiped his 119th bag of the year against Brewers’ pitcher Doc Medich and catcher Ted Simmons. He stole three more bases off of the duo before the game ended, although the A’s lost despite Henderson’s efforts.
By the end of the season, Henderson had amassed 130 stolen bases – a total that would likely have been higher if the Athletics were more competitive down the stretch. His record remains unbeaten to this day.
Will anyone ever come close to topping Henderson’s record? It isn’t likely. Brock remains second, with just 118 bases. Since 2000, the closest anyone has gotten is 78, when Jose Reyes showed off his speed with the New York Mets. Vince Coleman made several valiant efforts in the 1980s, but even he couldn’t come close to Henderson’s record.
So far this season, Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds leads the league in stolen bases. He has just 54, and he blows away the competition. In fact, speed is so thoroughly neglected in baseball at this point that Billy Burns is tied for sixth, and he’s only swiped 25 bags.
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Henderson is one of the greatest players of all time, and perhaps the most deserving of any Oakland Athletics’ Hall of Famer. The 10-time All-Star ranked in the top ten in WAR in nine of his 25 seasons, and he has the fourth-most career plate appearances of any player in baseball history. He also walked 2,190 times – the second highest career total in history.
In addition to holding the single-season record for steals, Henderson also holds the career record, with 1,406 total steals. Considering he was on base 5,343 times in his career, that means he stole about 25 percent of time.
Henderson’s accomplishments, especially on the base paths, are right up there with Bob Feller’s 36 complete games in one season when it comes to unbeatable records. Managers are just too cautious to allow the kind of rampant stealing that Henderson accomplished, and catchers are much more specialized when it comes to throwing runners out.
It’s not a very bold prediction to say that there will never be another Rickey Henderson. There’s a good reason he is one of the most cherished Oakland Athletics in history.