Friday, August 29, 2008

Rickey Henderson Named to A's 40th Anniversary Team

To cap off their celebration of 40 years in Oakland, the A's announced their fan-voted 40th Anniversary Team yesterday.

What should come as no surprise, is that Rickey was voted as one of the top three A's outfielders, along with Reggie Jackson and Joe Rudi. The full team can be seen below:

Position Name Years in Oakland
C Terry Steinbach 1986-96
1B Mark McGwire 1986-97
2B Mark Ellis 2002-present
SS Bert "Campy" Campaneris 1968-76*
3B Carney Lansford 1983-92
OF Rickey Henderson 1979-84, 1989-95, 1998
OF Reggie Jackson 1968-75, 1987
OF Joe Rudi 1968-76, 1982
DH Dave Kingman 1984-86
P Jim "Catfish" Hunter 1968-74
P Vida Blue 1969-77
P Dave Stewart 1986-92, 1995
Closer Dennis Eckersley 1987-95
Manager Tony LaRussa 1986-95

The A's have invited the entire team to a ceremony before their September 21 game against Seattle, their last home game of the year. It looks like Mark Ellis is the only lock to attend, but I hope most of the others decide to come as well. Rickey has been much more active with the A's this year (attending Root Beer Float day, helping at a youth clinic), that I hope he shows up as well. If we're lucky, he might even suit up and bat leadoff!

The A's also announced the top moments of each decade (video clips are available on the site), with Rickey playing a role in two of them.

The top moment of the 1980's was the A's 1989 World Series win, in which the late season acquisition of Rickey helped put them over the top.

The top moment of the 1990's was Rickey's 939th stolen base, breaking Lou Brock's all-time record. As I've mentioned before, I was unable to make it to that game, but I did get to see him tie the record a few days earlier.

Although Rickey was not involved, I was able to witness the best moment of the 2000's, Scott Hatteberg's walk-off homer to give the A's their 20th straight victory. I've never been to a more energy-filled A's game, and wish that the fans would pack the stadium like that much more often.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rickey and Nolan Ryan's 5,000th Strikeout

Nineteen years ago today, on August 22, 1989, Rickey Henderson was the victim of Nolan Ryan's historic 5,000th strikeout. This may not have been Rickey's finest hour, but it will definitely not be the last time that these two legends path will cross. As I've mentioned before, Nolan Ryan threw his th no-hitter on the same day in 1991 that Rickey broke Lou Brock's all-time stolen base record.

The 8"x10" photo above depicts Nolan Ryan pitching to Rickey during that fateful at bat. It's one of the few items in my collection where Rickey isn't actually the focal point.

Photo copyright Dallas Morning News

In the 5th inning of the game, Rickey struck out swinging at a 96 mph fastball. Ryan struck out a total of 13 batters that game, but the A's still managed to beat the Rangers 2-0. Rickey later responded to questions about the event by saying, "If you haven't been struck out by Nolan Ryan, you're nobody." Exactly what you'd expect from someone like Rickey.

Photo copyright Houston Chronicle

The excerpts below appeared in the August 23, 1989 edition of the Dallas Morning News.

[Nolan Ryan] hurled a 96 mph fastball – the trademark of his career – past a swinging Rickey Henderson on a 3-2 pitch to open the fifth inning of the Rangers' game against the Oakland Athletics. At 8:51 p.m., on his 73rd pitch of the game, Ryan became the first pitcher in history to strike out 5,000 batters.

"If somebody had asked me how I'd have liked to get it, I would have said with a fastball swinging," said Ryan, whose milestone pitch equaled his top velocity of the game. "That's my bread-and-butter pitch."

Ryan's feat prompted a one-minute, 25-second standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 42,869, the second-largest in the Rangers' 18 years in Texas. The adulation ended only because Ryan stepped back on the mound and resumed pitching.

Although the A's tried to play down their part and point to their interest in a pennant race, even they couldn't ignore what was about to happen.

As Henderson walked to the plate, en route to becoming No. 5,000, he chatted with home plate umpire Larry Young.

"He said, 'If I'm the 5,000th strikeout, can I get the ball to give to my little boy?' " Young said. "I told him I didn't think either one of us could get out of here with that ball."

Although not the 5,000 strikeout ball, someone can now buy a ball with slightly less historical significance. American Memorabilia is currently selling a ball singed by Nolan Ryan that was supposedly used during this exact game. It's definitely not the ball he struck out Rickey with (I really hope it's in the Hall of Fame somewhere, and we know Rickey didn't get it), but if authentic, is a pretty cool piece of history. The $714 price tag, however, does put it out of most collectors' price range.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Spotting a Fake Rickey Henderson Rookie

Just a quick post today featuring information that any Rickey Henderson collector should not be without.

The Sports Card Info blog recently wrote a post on how to spot a fake Rickey Henderson rookie card.

It seems that there are three main issues to look out for:

1 - Take a look at the words “Rickey Henderson” at the top of the card on the front. A fake version of this card will have a name that is made of many small dots instead of solid black ink on an original.

2 - On a fake Henderson rookie, a green and white dot pattern will make up the background of the “A’s” logo. On a real version, the green background is a solid color.

3 - A counterfeit Henderson rookie will have a broken circle around the © logo on the back.

Thanks again to Sports Card Info for allowing me to reproduce this information. Hopefully it will help all Rickey card collectors prevent any unfortunate purchases. I only have one copy of his rookie myself, but if I do ever decide to pick up another one, I'll be sure to check out these issues first.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Rickey's in the Mail: Game-Used

I've recently acquired a handful of Rickey Henderson game-used cards through various online trades and select eBay purchases. I thought I'd put a photo-heavy post together (in no particular order) that includes the cards description and possibly some commentary of my own.

2003 Finest Bat Relics FRB-RH -- The card has a nice shiny refractor-like finish, but there is only one version, unlike some Finest cards with both a base and refractor version.

2004 Leaf Certified Materials Fabric of the Game Jersey Year FG-189 #/84

2002 Finest Jersey Relics FJR-RH -- With some game-used inserts consisting of a myriad of parallel versions, it's nice to know that with only one card, this set is complete. The same holds true for the 2003 Finest jersey above.

2005 Absolute Memorabilia Tools of the Trade Swatch Six TT-94 #/50 -- This is the nicest game-used Rickey Henderson card that I currently have. It features a piece of batting glove, bat, cap, pants, and jersey (both yellow and grey). It's sets like these that I was referring to above, with Rickey having around 200 different Tools of the Trade game-used cards in the 2005 Absolute Memorabilia set.

2005 Donruss Champions Impressions Material Jkt 50 -- This cards features the first game-used jacket that I've obtained

2003 Bowman Heritage Diamond Cuts Relics Bat DC-RH -- Readers of this blog know that I'm a sucker for retro-looking cards, and this is no exception.

2002 Diamond Kings Diamond Cut Collection Jsy DC-78 #/250

2004 Topps Clubhouse Relics Uniform RHE -- Another card featuring Rickey in his early A's jersey, and probably my favorite card of the lot! It would have been even better if the swatch had actually matched the yellow jersey shown.

2004 Absolute Memorabilia Tools of the Trade Material Combo Bat-Jsy TT-121 #/250 -- Another Absolute Memorabilia Tools of the Trade insert, but this one is from a year earlier than the first.

2002 E-X Game Essentials Bat

2003 Playoff Prestige Player Collection Pants #/325

2002 Topps Traded Tools of the Trade Relics Bat TTRR-RHB -- Another card that only has one version, without any parallels or variations!

2003 Donruss Elite Throwback Threads Padres-Mets TT-53 #/125 -- This is my first game-used card with pieces on both sides. There's a white swatch from the Padres on the front, with a black swatch from the Mets on the back.

This obviously doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of cards that are out there, but it's a nice start, and I'm always looking for more.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rickey Henderson Pins & Buttons: Part II

Update 8/12: Thanks to Neil (RickeyFanatic on The Bench), I've added a button variation that I didn't even know existed. It seems that the 1986 Baseball Button comes in both a 3" and 1 1/2" version.

Now that I've completed the pins section of this post, it's time for the buttons! I don't have nearly as many buttons as I do pins, so this post will be considerably shorter.

We'll start with what I believe to be the oldest of the buttons in my collection. The front of the button features a young Rickey in a classic A's jersey. It includes his name in black block letters, as well as a facsimile signature and the number 254. It seems odd to me to include a number right next to the players face, but that's where they put it. On the edge of the button it reads "Sports Photo Assoc., Hawthorne, N.J. c 1978." I'm not sure if the button was actually produced in 1978, since Rickey first played for the A's in 1979, but it's definitely from one of his earlier seasons.

Continuing along chronologically, this mini button (it's only about 1" across) was produced in 1984 by Fun Foods. This button is actually officially recognized by Beckett, and is listed as "Fun Foods Pins 17."

Along with the button, I also have a paper "proof" of the Rickey Fun Foods pin. It's basically an uncut square of the buttons image before it was actually applied to the button itself.

The four pins above are the remaining members of the A's (Dwayne Murphy, Dave Kingman, Carney Lansford, and Joe Morgan) that were included in the 1984 Fun Foods set. Although not Rickey-related, I had the buttons in the same box as the Rickey ones, so figured I might as well include them.

The next "Vincentown" buttons I've actually blogged about before, but I wanted to post them all in one place, so I've included them here as well. The button is about 3" round and features a head shot of Rickey, along with his name in all black capital letters. On the side of the button it says "M.L.B.P.A. Baseball Buttons, Vincentown NJ 08088." Beckett categorizes this button as "1986 Baseball Star Buttons 55," which as I mentioned in the previous post, was an item off of their list that I had and didn't even know it!

EDIT: Thanks again to reader Neil for providing the picture of the 1 1/2" 1986 Baseball Star Button. I've included a picture of my button (also with a dollar as reference), so that the two are able to be compared side by side. Based on discussions with other collectors, it seems that the 1/ 1/2" (or officially 1 7/16") size is the "correct" one. I have no idea where my 3" button came from, but now I need to find the smaller version as well.

Included above are three other Vincentown buttons that I have, which unlike the earlier 1986 button, are not included in Beckett's master checklist. The button on the left is another 3" button that says "Baseball Buttons, Vincentown, NJ, O8088, 1990 MLB MLBPA."

The two buttons on the right are only about 1 1/2" in size. The top button says on the front that it's from 1991, but the copyright on the side says "Baseball Buttons, 1990 MLB MLBPA." The bottom button, from 1992 and number 111 of 120 in the set, is marked "MLBPA Baseball Buttons, Vincentown NJ, 1991 MLB." Like the one before, the copyright year is one year before the year on the button. Also, note that these buttons all feature the same picture of Rickey, only cropped slightly different.

This final button is one that I only recently acquired. It was produced in 1991 an is a Starhots Official Celebrity Badge. The button comes in a plastic case on a cardboard "easel" which also includes his stats from the past few years. Unlike the past few buttons, Beckett does recognize this one, and lists it as "1991 Starshots Pinback Badges 24."

I know that there has to be at least a few Rickey buttons out there that I don't have. As with the pins before, if any readers have any that I have not posted, I would love to get a scan and add them to the collection. My goal with this blog is not to showcase only my collection, but to be a "Rickey Encyclopedia" of everything that is out there.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Rickey Henderson Pins & Buttons: Part I

UPDATE 8/11: Thanks to fellow Rickey collector Brian (whose Pacific Prisms have been showcased here recently), I've been able to add 4 new Rickey pins to the collection, and also solved the "mystery" of the 1992 MVP pin series.

Among all of the oddball items produced, I've always been a big fan of the cloisonne pins and pinback buttons that can be found from various sources. Part I of this post will focus only on Rickey pins, while Part II will be dedicated to buttons.

I think I have a pretty good collection of Rickey's pins and buttons, but I know that there are more out there that I don't have. If anyone reading this has a pin or a button that I haven't posted, I would definitely be interested in learning more about it, and acquiring it if you're willing to part with it.

We'll start with these two similar looking pins. The one on the left was produced in 1988 by Peter David Inc., while the one on the right doesn't include any markings on the back, but is probably from around 1990.

This pin was made in 1990 by PSI, and also features the MLBPA copyright. I like the fact that it's a fairly basic and simple pin, with not much to distract from his name and number.

The above package is a 1990 Ace MVP pin, which also includes a 1990 Score card. Rickey was included in the Ace MVP pin set in 1990, 1991, and 1992. These three pins are all recognized by Beckett, and are listed as 1990 M.V.P. Pins 74, 1991 M.V.P. Pins 40, and 1992 M.V.P. Pins 24, respectively.

On the left is a close-up of the 1990 Ace MVP pin, with the 1991 version on the right.

I don't have the 1992 pin, and I'm not sure that I've ever seen one. I have a feeling that it looks the same as the 1991 pin, but I don't have any information to confirm that. (EDIT: Thanks to Brian, I now have a picture of the 1992 Ace pin, which goes against my initial belief, now all I need to do is find one for my own collection. Somehow Ace managed to misspell his name in 1992, after having no problems with the 1990 and 1991 releases.)

When Rickey broke the stolen base record in 1991, the pin at the top, sponsored by All American Raisins, was given away at the Oakland Coliseum after the game. The above card was attached to the pin, which includes all of Rickey's milestone steals over his career.

The pin on the left is my favorite Rickey pin, and one that I fondly remember acquiring at the sporting goods store at the local mall growing up. It's also lacking any stamping on the back, but due to its subject matter, was probably produced in late 1991 or early 1992.

The pin on the right also commemorates Rickey's 939th stolen base, but also includes Nolan Ryan and his 7th no-hitter, which happened on the same day in 1991. Similar to the Man of Steal pin, this one includes only a blank gold back.

EDIT: The scan above was also provided by Brian, and is a pin that I recently featured in a post on Rickey items for sale on eBay (now I wished I'd actually bought it). This pin is similar to the 939 pin above, and once again features no markings on the back.

This next pin was available for purchase with a fill-up at Unocal 76 gas stations. It was produced in 1992 and is #2 of 5 in the "Record Setters in Oakland" set. Vida Blue, Reggie Jackson, Jose Canseco, and Rickey Henderson, all of the Oakland A's MVP's, are included on the pin. Unocal put out a different set of pins every year, but I believe this is the only one on which Rickey is included. Surprisingly, this pin is also recognized by Beckett, and is listed as "A's Unocal 76 Pins Athletics MVP's-Vida Blue-Reggie Jackson-Jose C 2."

The above pin was probably produced by the same company that put out the "History!" and "Man of Steal" pins in 1991. This pin commemorates Rickey's 1,000th stolen base, which he reached on May 1, 1992, ironically, one year to the day after he stole #939!

Above is a classically designed MLB pin, also produced by Peter David. It features a replica of Rickey's Padres jersey, with the team banner at the bottom. There has to be one of these out there somewhere with Rickey's A's jersey, but I don't yet have one.

EDIT: Ask and you shall receive! Another pin scan provided by Brian, this one is similar in style to the Padres jersey featured above, and is one that I do recall seeing at least once before. Based on the style and lack of details in the pin, I'm guessing that this one was probably produced around 1990 or so, but it also could have been just a lower end pin produced at a later time.

The next three pins were all Peter David pins released in 2001, a pretty iconic year for Rickey, as far as baseball milestones go. The top pin celebrates his 2,246 career run scored, setting the all-time record. The pin in the middle is for his 2,063 career walks, also an MLB record. Finally, the pin on the bottom showcases his 3,000 hits, which he also reached in 2001. It was a good year to be a Rickey fan in San Diego!

EDIT: The above pin from Brian seems to be similar in style and time frame to the 1991 and 1992 M.V.P. pins. I seem to recall running across this pin on eBay a few times, but never did pick one up. I'll have to try and remedy that in the future.

I'll conclude this post with two more generic Rickey pins, this time featuring replicas of two of his baseball cards. The one on the left is his 1991 Upper Deck card, and was probably created sometime around then. The pin on the right recreates his rookie card, but it's harder to pinpoint when it was created. Based on the style of the pin, and the lack of detail they were able to include, I think it's probably from the early to mid 1980's, but I can't be sure.