Monday, June 29, 2009

A's "Announce" Plans to Retire Rickey's Number

A few months ago, when the A's announced their plans to hold a "Rickey Henderson Day" as part of a Rickey Weekend August 1 and 2, the plans included a "ceremony on the field" before the game. Since a ceremony without a purpose didn't make much sense, I made the prediction that they would also be retiring his number at the same time. This was followed with more evidence, with Kurt Suzuki changing number during spring training.

Although I still haven't seen a formal announcement, a received an e-mail today from the A's, promoting tickets and the giveaways to the upcoming Rickey Weekend. Below the box shown above, tucked on the side of the e-mail, was the following text: "Celebrate Rickey Henderson’s induction into the Hall of Fame with terrific promotional giveaways and retirement of #24 on Saturday, Aug. 1."

The A's have also released pictures of the two giveaways for the weekend. The Saturday, July 1 jersey giveaway is shown above. The jersey is sponsored by Pepsi, and limited to the first 10,000 fans. Looking at the picture, it actually looks like it's an Orange Crush, and not Pepsi logo that's included on the sleeve of the jersey.

I've been eagerly awaiting the image of the banner giveaway, and am pleasantly surprised. The image is the same one that they used on their pocket schedules earlier in the year, and is a classic Rickey pose. Although sponsored by Kingsford Capital Management, their logo doesn't seem to actually appear on the design, which I guess is subject to change. Also limited to only 10,000 fans, I expect this to be a popular giveaway, and am planning on getting to the park pretty early that day so I don't miss out.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

30 Years of Rickey Henderson

I had actually forgotten about the significance of today, as it relates to the career of Rickey Henderson, until I saw a post by 30-Year Old Cardboard. It was on June 24, 1979, exactly 30 years ago today, that Rickey made his Major League debut with the Oakalnd A's.

While watching the A's game last year, they played footage of this game, and I was able to take some screenshots and include them in a post. They definitely aren't the best quality, but you'll get the general idea.

Not long after seeing the post by 30-Year-Old Cardboard, the Hall of Fame's weekly online newsletter, the Inside Pitch, arrived in my in-box, featuring an article on the anniversary. The article can be found online here, but I've also included the complete text below.

June 24, 1979: Rickey Henderson makes big league debut
By Craig Muder / National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

The signs were there right from the start, though few of the fans at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum that Sunday afternoon figured they were witnessing history.

Rickey Henderson was penciled into the lineup for his first Major League game that day. And by the end of the third inning, A's fans had seen just a glimpse of the talent and drive that took Henderson all the way to Cooperstown.

In that first game of a doubleheader against the Rangers, A's manager Jim Marshall installed the 20-year-old Henderson as his new leadoff hitter and left fielder. In his first at-bat against Texas left-hander John Henry Johnson, Henderson doubled to right. After advancing to third, Henderson was thrown out at the plate while trying to tag up on a fly ball by Jeff Newman.

But Henderson was far from finished. In the third inning, Henderson singled, then stole second off Rangers catcher Jim Sundberg, who won the fourth of his six straight Gold Gloves at the end of the 1979 season. For Henderson, it was the first of a Major League-record 1,406 stolen bases.

Henderson posted a .274 batting average with 33 steals and 49 runs scored in just 89 games in 1979 for an A's team that went 54-108. The next year, Henderson became just the third player in modern history to steal at least 100 bases in one year, joining Maury Wills and Lou Brock.

In his first 12 full big league seasons, Henderson led the American League in stolen bases 11 times -- falling short only in 1987 when injuries limited him to 95 games with the New York Yankees. He scored at least 100 runs in 10 of those seasons and in the 11th, 1981, he paced the AL in runs scored with 89 during that strike-shortened campaign.

Henderson ended his career in 2003 as the all-time leader in runs (2,295), walks (2,190) and stolen bases (1,406) -- and also leads all players with 2,129 unintentional free passes.

"He was the most dangerous player of our generation," said Tony La Russa, a former manager of Henderson's who now manages the St. Louis Cardinals. "That includes all the great sluggers and Hall of Famers. He was the most dangerous."

Henderson was elected to the Hall of Fame in January 2009 after receiving 94.8 percent of the votes on his first try on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot. He will be enshrined into the Hall of Fame on July 26 in Cooperstown along with fellow Class of 2009 members Joe Gordon and Jim Rice.

Pictures From the A's 20th Anniversary Celebration

Although I was not able to make it to the game last night, my sister and her friends did actually go to the game. Knowing my affinity for everything Rickey, she gratefully provided me with the following pictures to share. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A's 1989 World Series Champions 20-Year Reunion

Although I won't be able to make it (I've got a pesky final exam tomorrow), before the A's-Giants game tonight, the A's are holding a 20-year anniversary celebration of their 1989 World Series win.

They created a pretty nice looking logo for the occasion, but this was the best quality version that I could find online.

Overall, 11 members of the 1989 A's have confirmed that they are going to attend. The list includes, Lance Blankenship, Mike Gallego, Dave Henderson, Mike Moore, Ken Phelps, Tony Phillips, Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Curt Young, Matt Young, Rickey Henderson, and Walt Weiss.

Not surprisingly, both McGwire and Canseco are not going to be in attendance. The A's did have a McGwire replica jersey giveaway last night, and it was nice to see that he hasn't been totally forgotten.

Here's the lineup from game one of the series, which stayed consistent through, and when they played in San Francisco, Dave Parker (the DH) sat out, and everyone else just slid up one spot in the order:

Rickey Henderson, LF -- Scheduled to Appear
Carney Lansford, 3B -- Not listed as scheduled to appear, but he will definitely be at the game, as he's the Giants hitting coach!
Jose Canseco, RF -- He obviously won't be in attendance
Dave Parker, DH -- I'm not sure what he's doing now
Dave Henderson, CF -- Scheduled to Appear
Mark McGwire, 1B -- I don't think he's made a public appearance since the hearings
Tery Steinbach, C -- Declined due to prior family obligations
Tony Phillips, 2B -- Scheduled to Appear
Walt Weiss, SS -- Scheduled to Appear
Dave Stewart, P -- Scheduled to Appear

Mike Gallego, the A's current third base coach, came in to play 2B late in the game, shifting Tony Phillips over to third. Mike Moore (also scheduled to appear) started and won both games 2 and 4 of the Series. Rick Honeycutt, who came in to relieve Moore in game two, is also absent, but he's the current Dodgers pitching coach, so has a legitimate excuse.

The pitcher who closed out the game two win, Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley is another prominent name missing from the reunion, but is currently an analyst for the Red Sox, and couldn't get out of his prior commitments. There's also A's manager Tony LaRussa, who as the head coach of the Cardinals, also has other more pressing matters at hand. Finally, another unlisted name, is that of as current GM Billy Beans, who played in 37 games for the A's in 1989, and should also probably be at the ballpark.

Looking at the lineup, I was actually surprised to see that McGwire was batting 6th, as I don't remember him usually batting that low. They were definitely a fun team to watch, with Rickey getting on base, and the rest of the guys hitting him home!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Is Rickey Upset With the A's?

I recently came across a story written by Monte Poole of the San Jose Mercury News, that I found both interesting and a little sad. It seems that Rickey hasn't been on very good terms with the Oakland A's over the past few years, and is a little upset over the way that he has been treated. He says that if it weren't for the fans, and the fact that Oakland is his hometown, he'd like to go into the Hall wearing a....Padres hat! Which is just blasphemy if you ask me!

Although he broke both the all-time runs scored and walks records while playing for the Padres, it's definitely not the team with which he's most associated.

The whole story can be found below, as well as at this link.

Six weeks from today, Rickey Henderson will be the toast of baseball, a first-ballot inductee into the Hall of Fame, standing at the podium wearing an A's cap.

And having decidedly mixed emotions about the organization that cap represents.

Henderson's decision to go green and gold in Cooperstown is complicated by the perceived sheet of ice between the club and the greatest — and most popular — player in franchise history.

"I'm doing it for the fans, for the city, because this is home," Henderson says. "If (Oakland) wasn't home, I don't think I would wear it. Because I don't feel the love."

Rickey being Rickey? Maybe. But Rickey has a point.

He has not felt the love from his original team for a long time. Drafted by the A's out of Oakland Tech in 1976, Henderson spent 14 of his 25 major league seasons with the A's. He served four stints, under three ownerships, for six managers, the last being Art Howe in 1998.
In the decade-plus since, Rickey and the A's have shared one thing.
It's as if there is a door to the organization through which Rickey can look but not enter.

Though Henderson is always welcome at the ballpark, there has been no sincere invitation to lure him back as a player, coach or as a highly visible community ambassador. Not until this month did the A's reach agreement on a personal services contact with Rickey, allowing him to make appearances on behalf of the team in 2009.

The A's say there are plans to do more in the future.

"I'm sure there will be further discussion to determine a role for Rickey beyond this year," Ken Pries, the team vice president in charge of several areas, including community relations. "We realize how much Rickey means to our heritage."

The roots of Rickey's bittersweet emotions likely lie in the failure to finish his playing career with the A's. His final seasons as an active player were spent with the New York Mets, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers — in addition to the Newark Bears and San Diego Surf Dawgs of separate independent leagues.

All the while, even as late as 2006, Henderson sought to leave baseball wearing Oakland's green and gold. His very public pleas for one last chance to enter the batter's box in an A's uniform, heard 'round the baseball world, gained no traction within the organization.

It became an annual issue, local A's fans approaching general manager Billy Beane in coffee shops and parking lots, asking if Rickey might return for a grand finale. Most had heard that Henderson was willing sign any contract — even a minor-league deal— for the opportunity to prove his worth.

Nothing budged.

Though Beane consistently said he understood the desires of the fans, he also was consistent in saying he was trying to build a team with youth and a few selected veterans who could fill specific needs. Rickey, he always said, was not the right veteran to address those needs.

In his last overture, Henderson offered to donate his entire salary to charity. He yearned only for the chance to make the team, insisting he would pack up and go home if it were determined that he was unworthy. Practically begging, Rickey even took his plight to HBO's Bryant Gumbel.

Still nothing.

And not much in the last couple years, either, as it became apparent Henderson's playing days were over. He accepted invitations from the Mets to come to spring training to teach his considerable baserunning skills. He even spent time as a first-base coach.

The A's clearly have moved on.

"I would have been happy to work with Ron Washington when he was here," Henderson says, "or maybe come to spring training for a week or two and work with the younger players."

Having played for seven other teams, Henderson has seen the treatment other stars get from the organizations with which they are most identified. He knows of Tony Gwynn's iconic status in San Diego, knows what Minnesota thinks of the late Kirby Puckett.

Which makes it all the more painful to Rickey that he can't seem to reconcile with his hometown team. The team with a hold on his heart.

"I'm right here," he says. "I spend most of my time around here, right under their nose. I got my arms open to 'em."

Part of Rickey wishes he were courageous enough to take a hard stand. If he could, he would wear a Padres cap, he says, because he feels a mutual respect and appreciation.

But there's no chance of that. Rickey is committed to wearing an A's cap. It's in his blood. Even if there are times when he wishes it weren't.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

1980 Topps Rookie Card Photo Negative

The most recognizable Rickey Henderson card is no doubt his 1980 Topps rookie #492. It's also probably one of the most iconic card of the 1980's.

Although they're all probably done digitally today, photographers did have to use actual film in the 1980's, with the photo used on the cards printed from the negatives. The Topps Company has recently started selling off some of these older card negatives through their "Topps Vault" on eBay. There has been a couple of Rickey card negatives from the mid-1980's, as well as a couple of Topps Sticker negatives. But, nothing has been of much significance, until now.

This is the negative that was used in the production of his now famous rookie card. It's pretty cool to get to see the entire photo, without being cropped and covered with the design of the card. I also like that the the card number is included in the upper left corner.

I knew it would sell for a pretty outrageous sum, but was not expecting the $821 that it actually sold for! I just hope it went to a good home, to a Rickey collector that will appreciate it for what it is.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Few Years of the Collection Finally Complete

I want to first apologize in advance for the qualities of the scans in this post, as they leave something to be desired. I've already put all of the cards away in the collection, or else I'd take new ones to replace these. I scanned and saved the cards the same way that I always have, and hope it was just operator error, and not a problem with my scanner. Now, on to the cards!

Up until a recent trade, the only years in which I had all of the Beckett recognized Rickey Henderson cards that were produced, were 1979 and 1980, when he only had one card released each year. But, thanks to a recent trade/sale with Ken, a fellow Rickey collector, I was able to finish off not one, not two, but three different years!

The first card in the scan above is the 1981 Granny Goose #35, which has been on my want list for quite awhile. I remember eyeing this card numerous times at card shows in the late 1980's, but it was always way out of my price range, and now it's all mine. It was also the last Beckett listed card from 1981 that I needed (I now have 15 of 15), resulting in my first completed year!

The next two cards were also important additions to the collection, with the 1984 O-Pee-Chee Sticker #327 and the 1985 Topps Tiffany #115 both completing their respective years. I'm now 39/39 in 1984 cards and 26/26 in 1985. Plus, I now have all 19 of the Topps Tiffany cards produced, as well as all 27 of the listed O-Pee-Chee Stickers. It was definitely a very satisfying trade for the completist in me!

The final cards is one that I didn't even know existed until recently. It's a promotional card put out by Z-Silk in regards to their postal cachets. There's no year listed, but based on it's design, and the cachets that they actually produced, I'm thinking that's it's probably from the 1990-1992 time period.

This next "card" is the 1987 Sportsflics Superstar Disc #14. I had never seen one of these until around a year ago, and based on the pictures, I'd always assumed that they were similar to the 7-11 discs that were also produced. But, when I received it, I was pretty surprised to learn that it was huge! The 7-11 discs are only about 1 1/2" across, while these discs are about 4 1/2" across, which due to not having a reference point in the pictures that I'd seen, I had no idea about.

This disc was also an important addition to the collection, as it was card 55 of 55 to complete the 1987 Beckett list. This year holds even more importance than the others, as it's the year that I got my first Rickey, and started collecting baseball cards. I'm not sure where they were sold, but I definitely never saw any of these lying around back then!

Next we have the 9-card 1988 Star Nova set (limited to 500 sets), the earliest of the Star sets in which Rickey was included. There were a total of 11 Star sets featuring Rickey, produced between 1988 and 1991. And as would be expected based on the pattern of this post, I finally have all 11 of them. Beckett only lists the base 1990 and 1991 sets in their checklist, and excludes all of the other versions (Nova, Gold, Silver, etc.). So, that's an additional 80 cards or so which are not listed on the main Beckett checklist.

This next "card" is one that was listed on the Beckett checklist, but until a year or so ago, I wasn't exactly sure what it was. The card is about 8 1/2" x 11", and was an insert inside copies of the San Francisco Examiner. I'm always curious as to why Beckett decided to include really oddball items like this one in their checklist, but more mainstream issues have been left off. I've e-mailed them a few times to ask similar questions, but I've never received a response.

The top two cards are Promo cards from the Star sets discussed above, with each set getting its own Promo card. These are the only two that I currently have, with the 1990 Star Gold Promo (print run of 300) on the left, and the 1991 Star Nova Promo (print run of 100) on the right.

The second row of cards features two parallels that I've been chasing for awhile. On the left is the 1997 E-X 2000 Credential (#/299), with the 1997 Pinnacle Certified Mirror Gold on the right.

Last but not least is 5 more parallel cards, with the first and last ones being my favorite of this lot. The first card shown is the 1997 Score White Border Artist proof, the last of the Score Artist Proofs that I needed.

This is followed by the 1999 Pacific Prism Mirror Blue (#/80), and then the 1999 Pacific Paramount Opening Day (#/74). Pacific went crazy with their parallels during this time period, and it's always nice to cross a few off the list.

We next have a 2000 Stadium Club One of a Kind (#/150) which didn't scan very well (even worse than the others), but looks much nicer in person. Finally, we have 1994 Collectors Choice Gold Signature #510, which as might have been expected, is the final Collector's Choice Gold Signature that I needed.

Overall, I was able to 24 cards to my collection via this trade, almost all of which I've been chasing down for quite some time now. So, I can finally cross all of these off my "priority" want list, but there's still plenty more to take their place. And the search continues!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Hall of Fame Induction Day Cards

I just received an e-mail today with Hall of Fame Induction Day Cards that PhotoFile is going to release. I've seen the image on a PhotoFile 8x10 that is currently for sale, but had not yet seen the induction day version.

The flyer lists the retail price at $4.95, which is right around what you'd usually find these for. There's also a wholesale price of $2.50 each if you buy 50, which does seem tempting, but even with all of the Rickey collectors (and even baseball fans) that I know, I doubt I'd be able to round up enough people to make it worth while. I think I'll just plan on picking one up at the ceremony for $5, as that's probably the easiest thing to do.

Now that the merchandise is starting to roll out, I'm getting more and more excited about the upcoming Hall of Fame weekend, which is only about a month away. In finally purchased my airfare, and I reserved the hotel almost a year ago, and now all that is left is the rental car. As I've mentioned many times before, I can't wait!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rickey the Teammate

Although the general public tends to think that Rickey cared only about Rickey, most of those that played with him actually think otherwise. Among baseball circles, Rickey was actually a pretty good teammate, and he has no shortage of fans among those that he played. The following story, by Wayne Hagin of WFAN in New York (and ex-A's broadcaster), is one that I had never heard before, but that definitely bears repeating. The source for the story can be found here.

Rickey Henderson will get his coveted spot in Cooperstown later this summer. Voted in on the first ballot, Rickey, arguably, is baseball's greatest leadoff hitter. While the stolen base records as well as others such as leadoff homers may never be toppled, it is Rickey Henderson, the character, that we won't soon forget!

Rickey had a way of speaking in the third person and in my early days as a broadcaster with the Oakland A's, he would simply repeat my question as his way of answering what I had just asked. No matter what the feat, Rickey would provide an interesting pre or post game show and never said no. I remember 1982 as if it were yesterday when Rickey stole his 119th base and broke Lou Brock's single season mark. The record was established in Milwaukee and Hall of Fame announcer Lon Simmons, my partner in the booth at the time, told a very young Wayne Hagin to put on my headset and get ready to "call" the record breaker when Rickey got aboard at first. I knew why Lon was offering me that opportunity and I was grateful. Lon Simmons felt he had made several big calls in his major league career already and wanted a young broadcaster to have his "first" big call. I was stunned by his generosity but simply declined by saying on the air, "only one man deserves to call this moment and he's at the microphone right now". I put down my headset and walked to the back of the booth and listened to history being made on the next pitch. Lon called it beautifully and that call is now in the archives of baseball radio history!

I also remember a night in Kansas City that same season of 1982. This is a Rickey Henderson story that very few people know about. Being a single man my first four years of broadcasting major league baseball meant that I took in the "sights" on the road. Quincys was the name of the bar downstairs in the Kansas City hotel where most visiting teams stay. It was closing time and that meant that I was going to walk up the stairs to the lobby and catch the elevator and retire for the night. I was walking up the stairs next to Brian Kingman, one of the A's starting pitchers. Infamous for losing 20 games two years before, there was a constant friction between A's manager Billy Martin and Kingman. Little did I know, that I would be thrust into that friction within seconds of reaching the hotel lobby. At the top of the stairs stood Billy , with that black cowboy hat he was so fond of wearing . Standing with him were his coaches. I whispered to Kingman, "what is that about"? As we approached the top step, Kingman told me that Billy was waiting for him! Billy simply did not understand the cerebral Kingman and the two had knocked heads about his pitching style, effort, and results. Now, they were going to knock heads literally. When we had reached the Martin party of five, waiting like vultures for Kingman, the words started spewing. After several minutes of verbal jabs, Billy stated that they were going outside to rumble. I pleaded with Billy that he didn't want to do this and he told me to step aside. This was going to happen and happen right now.

Billy always had his coaches by his side. We all know why. Billy stepped outside the hotel and into the warm, humid Kansas City night. Brian Kingman would walk through the same door, knowing that fight time was near. Then, something happened that I will never forget. As the two men exited through the door, one of Billy's coaches stood at the door and blocked anyone else from joining in. Billy and his four other coaches were outside with Kingman with this other coach making sure there was wasn't any backup. What you need to know is that several of the A's players were in that lobby when this unfolded. Only one player went to the door to aid his teammate. When that player got to the door, the coach said ," You don't want to get involved". That player said that if Billy had his coaches outside then he needed to provide support for his teammate.

That player was none other than Rickey Henderson! While the other players turned their heads and , in essence, their backs on Kingman, it was Rickey, the star of the team, who went outside to be a peacmaker. Billy and Brian did scrap and yes, there were some pretty good punches thrown between the two. It was ruled a draw and the miserable 1982 season would end with Billy being fired during the World Series. I will always remember Rickey Henderson that night because he was the sole player to challenge what was happening between his manager, coaches, and his teammate. Rickey felt Kingman was outnumbered and went to his rescue. I know Rickey Henderson will be remembered for a lot of things during his time in the big leagues. Some of it funny, some of it historical. What I will remember is his courage to stand up for a teammate and try to right a wrong.

For that he will be remembered!