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Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice join a select club

They join the late Joe Gordon in being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

July 27, 2009|Associated Press

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y — . -- Jim Rice's icy glare melted into a wide smile. Brash, flamboyant Rickey Henderson was humbled by it all.

The former left fielders were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday along with the late Joe Gordon, and Henderson, baseball's all-time leading base stealer, was briefly overcome before evoking some hearty laughs.

"My journey as a player is complete," Henderson said. "I am now in the class of the greatest players of all time, and at this moment I am very humbled."

Born in Chicago on Christmas 1958, Henderson moved with his family to California when he was 7 and became a three-sport star at Oakland Technical High. Football was his forte and he received numerous scholarships. He was persuaded to turn them down for a shot at baseball.

Henderson led the American League in steals 12 times and holds the record for steals with 1,406, runs scored with 2,295, unintentional walks with 2,129, and home runs leading off a game with 81. He played for nine teams during a 25-year career.

Henderson was drafted by Oakland in the fourth round of the 1976 draft and made his major league debut with the Athletics in late June 1979. It was a day Henderson said he would never forget.

When the A's hired Billy Martin as manager in 1980, it helped catapult Henderson to stardom in Martin's "Billyball" aggressive attack.

Henderson had to stop briefly in his speech when remembering Martin, who was killed in a car crash in 1989.

"Billy always got the most out of me," he said. "Billy, I miss you so much and I wish you were here today."

In 1980, Henderson became the first AL player to steal 100 bases in a season with 100 to break Ty Cobb's record of 96 steals in 1915. In 1982, he set the modern major league record for stolen bases with 130, breaking former St. Louis Cardinals star Lou Brock's mark of 118.

Henderson, 50, was only the 44th player elected to the Hall in his first year of eligibility, but Rice had to wait until his final year of eligibility to be elected.

"It doesn't matter that the call came 15 years later," Rice said. "What matters is that I got it.

"It's hard to comprehend. I am in awe to be in this elite company and humbled to be accepting this honor. I cannot think of anywhere I'd rather be than to be right here, right now, with you and you," Rice, 56, said, pointing at the 50 Hall of Fame members on the stage behind him and then at the fans. "Thank you."

Playing at a time when offensive numbers paled in comparison to the last two decades, Rice batted .298 with 382 home runs and 1,451 runs batted in from 1974 to 1989. He drove in 100 runs or more eight times, batted over .300 seven times, and topped 200 hits four times.

Gordon, who died in 1978 at 63, was the AL's most valuable player in 1942, beating out Triple Crown winner Ted Williams, and was an All-Star nine times in 11 seasons. He still holds the league mark for career home runs by a second baseman with 246.

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