Five of Rickey Henderson’s finest on-field moments

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Mar 15, 2016; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics special instructor Rickey Henderson talks with fans prior to the game against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 15, 2016; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics special instructor Rickey Henderson talks with fans prior to the game against the Colorado Rockies at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Single-Season Record

It had only been eight years since Lou Brock set the single-season stolen base record with his 118 steals. Henderson was in just his fourth year in the big leagues.

Since having his first 100 stolen base season in 1980, Rickey Henderson had had only one season under his belt. It has been the 1981 season which was of course, a season shortened by a players’ strike.

The strike began on June 12 and continued until an agreement was made on July 31, play did not resume until August 9 with the All-Star game.

Regularly scheduled games started right after. The 1981 season was shortened by 73 games (approximately 38% of the season had been lost). Still Henderson had dominated the game stealing 56 bases and finishing second in the MVP voting to Milwaukee Brewer and former-Athletic Rollie Fingers.

On August 27, 1982, the Athletics were in Milwaukee playing the Brewers. Just a couple days earlier, back in Oakland, Henderson had been tied with Brock at 118 stolen bases. He had wanted to break the record at home.

Everyone was there hoping to see his 119 steal of the season including Brock, Rickey’s mother and half of Oakland.

Everyone was there hoping to see his 119 steal of the season including Brock, Rickey’s mother and half of Oakland.

Henderson opened up the game against manager Sparky Anderson and the Detroit Tigers getting steals 117 and 118 in the first inning.

After flying out in his next two at-bats, Henderson came up in the eighth inning. Unfortunately, there was a runner already on base, a player named Fred “Chicken” Stanley.

It was Rickey’s likely last at-bat of the game and manager Billy Martin in no uncertain terms told “Chicken,” one of the team’s slowest runners to get himself out.

Anderson was not too happy about this but Stanley did finally manage to get out and clear a path for Henderson to have the opportunity to steal.

According to the aforementioned documentary, when Henderson went sliding headfirst into second base, he was safe and everyone in the ballpark knew it.

That is everyone except the second base umpire who called him out, thus ending Henderson’s chances of breaking Brock’s record at home.

Some say that the umpire knew that Henderson was safe, but, similarly to the thoughts of the Tiger’s manager, didn’t appreciate Martin instructing Stanley to get himself out.

Of course with Martin as manager a yelling match ensued between the three men – the two managers and the umpire but ultimately the crowd, Brock and Rickey’s mom all went home disappointed.

Two days later in Milwaukee, Henderson easily broke the single season home run record. He finished the 1982 season with 130 steals, a record no one has come close to since.

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