“Today I am the greatest of all-time.” – Rickey Henderson
As so many of his teammates, friends and Oakland natives, including 2007 NL MVP Jimmy Rollins, whose father grew up in Oakland living down the street from Henderson, said in the latest documentary on Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, “Rickey was Rickey.” And there is no better way to put it.
In fact, Henderson, who has always spoken in third person, likely has said the very same words himself.
The MLB Network documentary, The School of Rickey, that aired Tuesday night, highlighted the Hall of Famer’s edgy Oakland attitude, his swagger (before swagger was even a word) and his role in the beginning of the new school of baseball where players can be both athletes, entertainers and hey, show off a bit when they’ve done something great.
He would make a show of rounding the bases, popping his non-existent collar after a home run and when it came to steals, MLB had never seen anything like him and probably never will again.
Rickey Henderson was a controversial figure, many didn’t like his “new school” actions but really, at least according to his former teammates Dennis Eckersley and Dave Stewart, and former manager Tony La Russa, it wasn’t showboating – it was just “Rickey being Rickey.”
Henderson was a hometown, local kid who made it to the big leagues and played four separate stints for the Oakland A’s. He inspired pride in Oakland and the people of the East Bay. You’ll never hear a bad word spoken about him, at least not there.
Even on May 1, 1991 when he broke Lou Brock‘s all-time stolen base record and stated that he was now “the greatest of all-time.” It was once again just “Rickey being Rickey.”
He wasn’t trying to show anyone up but that line was met with criticism as Nolan Ryan threw a no-hitter later that night, and was of course in his “old school” style, taking it quietly in stride.
Yet, Rickey didn’t mean any harm, he’d finally accomplished a goal not unlike his hero – Muhammad Ali.
Growing up a product of the Bay Area and of “The Town,” a name that many of its residents affectionately refer to Oakland as, it seemed it would be appropriate to highlight a handful of Henderson’s finest moments on the field over his storied 25-year career.
These moments were touched upon in the new documentary but its main highlights were focused elsewhere.
In the spirit of the documentary that chronicled how Henderson so honestly and openly represented himself and where he came from, as well as how he changed the game of baseball with his attitude and style alone, he also left a lasting impression on the game with his on the field heroics.
Here are five of the greatest on-field moments in the career of one of baseball’s most historic and elite players.