Rickey’s ‘tenure’ enough for Hall of Fame

Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer

One of the most entertaining careers in the history of sports is about to come to an end, and I couldn’t be happier.
I was watching Sportscenter late Monday night to find the anchors discussing Rickey Henderson’s impending retirement from baseball. While I’m sad to see Henderson go, I’m getting ready to mark my calendar five years in advance.

According to the hall’s rules, five years is when Henderson would be eligible for induction in Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Just like Jerry Rice is unquestionably football’s greatest receiver ever, Henderson is unquestionably baseball’s greatest leadoff hitter ever. As the game’s all-time leader in stolen bases (1,406) and runs (2,295) and the No. 2 player in walks (2,190), there is no conceivable way Henderson doesn’t get elected in his first year of eligibility. Never mind that he also has more than 3,000 hits, which usually clinches a spot in the Hall.

It’s those numbers that will probably trouble some Baseball Writers Association of America members five years from now. They’re the ones who will vote on whether or not Henderson joins other legends in Cooperstown, and they’ll have to balance out those gaudy numbers with other negative aspects about Henderson that I just find hilarious.
You hate it when athletes talk in the third person? You hate athletes who call themselves the greatest? Those are the other things Henderson is famous for.

Consider the following stories about Henderson that have circulated over the years:

• While playing for the Oakland A’s, Henderson was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays and helped them win a World Series. To accommodate the trade, Oakland had to pay $1 million to buy out a no-trade clause in Henderson’s contract.

A few months into the offseason, Oakland management noticed that Henderson had not cashed his check, and it was screwing up the accounting books. The A’s contacted Henderson and asked if he ever received the check. Henderson replied that he was looking at it while he was talking to them.

Apparently, Henderson thought a $1 million check looked better framed on his wall than it did in his bank account.

• When he was with the San Diego Padres in 1996, Henderson asked if there were assigned seats on the team bus. Outfielder Steve Finley told Henderson he could sit anywhere he wanted because he had tenure.

Henderson’s response: “Ten years? What are you talking about? Rickey got 16, 17 years.”

• While in Seattle, he asked teammate John Olerud why he wore a batting helmet while playing first base. Olerud explained that he had an aneurysm years ago and wore the helmet as protection.

Henderson said that was unusual, because he used to have a teammate that wore a helmet for the same reason. The former teammate? Olerud in Toronto.

(Full disclosure: I read in Sports Illustrated two years ago that this is a story the New York Mets made up. However, the fact that 90 percent of baseball fans accepted it as gospel lets you know that nothing about Rickey Henderson is too crazy to be true.)

• When asked for a comment about the late Ken Caminiti’s estimation that 50 percent of Major League Baseball players use steriods, Henderson said, “I’m not one of them, so that’s 49 percent right there.” If you know what he was trying to say, please call me.

These stories are still not enough to keep Henderson out of the Hall of Fame, so expect the future to include Rickey Henderson giving one of the most awkward induction speeches in baseball history.

I’m just wondering if I can reserve my seat now.