Rickey Henderson was a basestealing machine the likes of which may never be seen in the majors again. He had completely revolutionized the leadoff position, with his blend of speed and power unlike anything that had been in the position before. Henderson was a threat in every aspect of the game, someone who drew attention no matter what he was doing.
His best season may have come in 1982. He only finished tenth in the AL MVP voting, but he showed what type of a weapon he could be on the basepaths. Henderson stole a modern day major league record 130 bases, annihilating the record at the time.
Rickey Henderson’s 1982 season still resonates
As it turns out, that 1982 season may be relevant these days as well. Those 130 steals back in 1982 are more than any one team has thus far in 2021 and it is unlikely that any team will surpass that total. The Kansas City Royals are closest, with 121 steals entering action on Friday.
The stolen base is not nearly as much of a factor as it was in Henderson’s day. The days of one dimensional speedsters, such as the Vince Coleman or Alan Wiggins type, are long gone. Even the best in the game at stealing bases have more thunder in the bat these days as teams look for more well rounded athletes.
Henderson’s legacy is alive in other aspects as well. The major league leader in steals, Starling Marte, is in Oakland. He has stolen 23 bases since being acquired at the trade deadline by the A’s, providing an element in the lineup that has not been there since Henderson’s heyday.
The years have come and gone. A generation has passed since Henderson stole his last bag in the majors, his accomplishments seemingly foreign these days. The game has changed dramatically in that time. And yet, it is amazing to think that Henderson, in that magical 1982 campaign, will have stolen more bases by himself than one team combined for in 2021.
Rickey Henderson’s incredible 1982 season lives on in the history books. This season, it is even more impressive considering how the stolen base has fallen by the wayside.