It is a sad day for baseball fans; Rickey Henderson has officially retired from baseball. Of course he hasn’t played in the majors in like three or four years, but he was toiling away in the independent leagues because he basically wanted to play ball. He was the greatest leadoff hitter in history, at least when hitting leadoff still meant something, and he is the all time steals leader, when steals used to mean something.
He was also quite the character. Rickey is known to have an ego and like many pro athletes he loved to speak in third person, in fact he was rumored to have left a message on Padres GM Kevin Towers answering machine saying “this is Rickey, calling on behalf of Rickey.” Rickey has been known to talk to himself while playing saying things like, “That’s not how Rickey swings.” Rickey also talks to his bats, “Which one of you bad boys got some hits in you?”
One time it is rumored that Rickey was offered any seat on the team bus because he had "tenure" and Rickey said, “Ten years? What are you talking about? Rickey got 16, 17 years.” Another story that is told is that the Oakland A’s, the team Rickey is most remembered playing for, had found a $1 million accounting “error” in their favor and in tracking down why this happened, they found that Rickey had received a $1 million signing bonus and instead of cashing the check he framed it and hanged it on his wall.
Perhaps my favorite Rickey Be Rickey story is that when he was playing with Seattle, he noticed that a player named John Olerud, who was on the Mets at the time, was playing first base with a batting helmet instead of the usual baseball cap. The reason for this is because as a college player Olerud was hit by a line drive and almost died and since that time he has worn the batting helmet in the field. After Rickey spied Olerud wearing his helmet, he went up to him and noted that he “used to have a teammate in Toronto who did the same thing.” To which Olerud replied, “That was me.” Brilliant Rickey, just brilliant. And isn’t it fitting that on the same day that Rickey “Be Rickey” Henderson has announced his retirement, John Olerud too has retired today. And now you know….the rest of the story.