Rickey Henderson, 1994 Upper Deck Collector’s Choice, #131
Another request, this time for one of the greatest players of my lifetime:
Any chance you could do a Rickey Henderson card? Loved having him on the team in 93.
For a half season rental player, Rickey Henderson sure seemed to have an impact for Blue Jays fans and that is as much due to his overpowering personality as his play on the field. He will forever be remembered for his hilariously bad commercials with Bob McCown for The Fan and for drawing a walk to lead off the bottom of the 9th in Game 6 of the World Series to put himself in position to be the first run driven home by Joe Carter’s famous home run.
This card is evidence of Upper Deck’s superiority in photo selection during this era and captures Rickey perfectly. Mid base-steal on the front and mid-swing on the back, including his unique hyper-crouched stance.
For all of his records and incredible performance on the field Rickey is just as well known for, well, being Rickey. Referring to himself in the third person, calling himself the “Greatest of all Time” and countless rumours, stories and myths have become the stuff of baseball legend.
One of the more well known stories is from his time with the Mets in 1999 when he saw teammate John Olerud heading out to play first base with his helmet on and said “We had a guy like that in Toronto” referring to…you know, also John Olerud. The story is a complete fabrication though, apparently made up by Robin Ventura and spread around as a prank. But the fact it was so easily believed sums up the public perception of Rickey quite well.
Henderson was one of the most complete ball players of his era, combining speed, power and incredible plate discipline to become a terror at the top of the lineup. His insane record of 130 stolen bases in a season will almost certainly never be approached, but equally impressive are his walk numbers. Joe Posnanski did a great piece summarizing Rickey’s incredible ability to ear a free pass at the plate back in 2008. From that piece:
Rickey Henderson walked 796 times in his career LEADING OFF AN INNING. Think about this again. There would be nothing, absolutely nothing, a pitcher would want to avoid more than walking Rickey Henderson to lead off an inning. And yet he walked SEVEN HUNDRED NINETY SIX times to lead off an inning.
He walked more times just leading off an in inning than Lou Brock, Roberto Clemente, Luis Aparicio, Ernie Banks, Kirby Puckett, Ryne Sandbergand more than 50 other Hall of Famers walked in their entire careers (more than Jim Rice, too).
I simply cannot imagine a baseball statistic more staggering.