Ricky the Great

Ricky Henderson 1991 Topps Baseball Card.

Ricky Henderson was in his native Oakland, California on May 1, 1991 when he broke Lou Brock’s all time stolen base record of 938 total lifetime. He would go on to a 25 year career with 1406 total stolen bases, among many other contributions. Originally born in Chicago, Ricky’s family moved to Oakland when he was 2 years old. Actually, he was born in the back of an Oldsmobile, on the way to the hospital. This is one of his many running jokes. When asked about the incident, “I was already fast, I couldn’t wait,” says Ricky. As a three sport athlete in Oakland Technical High School, Ricky grew up idolizing Muhammad Ali. His lifetime commitment to athletics was connected to his admiration of Muhammad Ali and wanting to achieve that same greatness. So, after he made that head first slide at third base, then pulling the base from the ground and hoisting it victoriously over his head, there was no second thought. He would proclaim greatness in his speech, moments after, and with Lou Brock (the old Stolen Base King) nearby. “I am the greatest of all time.” he said. ESPN’s Tim Kurkjan reported that, in the days leading to the historic day, Ricky Henderson and Lou Brock became close friends and wrote a speech together. But, Ricky was so caught up in the moment that he forgot about the speech in his back pocket and went on impulse.

At the time, it looked like he snubbed Lou Brock. But, in hindsight, nothing could be further from Ricky’s intentions that day. The rest is history, its just another one of Ricky’s running jokes. There is no doubt that Ricky’s long and prolific career set the bar for todays superstars.

Mike Trout roaming centerfield at Oakland Coliseum in Alameda County. Oakland Athletics beat Los Angeles Angels 10-0 on Wednesday September 19, 2018. Photo by Miguel A. Sanchez.

Money is a paradigm in todays game. The 2011 Film “Moneyball” is the story of the 2002 Oakland A’s and their General Manager, Billy Bean. It depicts the struggles of a team trying to compete with billionaires funding millionaires. Billy Bean champions the concepts of Bill James, a Baseball Historian who used statistical data to forecast individual performance and to determine why teams win or lose. In todays game, Analytics drives team building decisions, now more than ever. It’s ironic how technologically advanced the game has evolved to being, yet it struggles to transcend to the next generation. With the groundswell of so much young talent, attendance lags behind and the fan in the stands gets older. There is more than one reason for this. Hard to compare today’s superstars. Ricky Henderson was a once in a lifetime player. One Opening Day in “The Land,” Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum was renamed Ricky Henderson Field in a dedication ceremony on April 03, 2017.

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