Who’s On Base?: The Best Player you Never Hear About!

Updated: October 28, 2008

Rickey HendersonGLEN BURNIE, MARYLAND — When you think of the most hated men ever to play the game of baseball, a few names come to mind. Ty Cobb would have to be at the top of the list, followed by Ted Williams (he didn’t become a fan favorite until he retired), and coming in a close third would have to be Rickey Henderson. Yeah, that’s right, Rickey has been on the most hated list for years and years on different teams. He has been with the Oakland A’s, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, New York Mets, Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays. But I don’t mention Rickey today because he is on the most hated list but, rather, because he is on the verge of becoming one of the ten best players in the history of baseball.

With less than ten games remaining on the baseball schedule, Rickey is about to break Ty Cobb’s all-time, runs-scored record of 2,245 runs and, with just three more hits, he will become a member of the 3,000 hit club. Since Rickey is already the all-time leader in stolen bases and walks, the next two accomplishments for Rickey will make a substantial case for his placement as one of the top five baseball players of all time.

But how come Rickey is not in the spotlight, being interviewed every week, or having press conferences before each game? Well, there are two very simple answers to this complex question. First, Rickey has never ever been on the good side of the media and, because they have resented his ego and cockiness, they have in turn have put him on the backburner, somehow hoping his achievements will be outdone someday (sorry, guys). The second reason for the lack of coverage is the fact that runs scored and base hits don’t make headlines. People want to see home runs and lots of them. If it were up to the average fan, there would be six or seven home runs a game and the record wouldn’t be 70 home runs; it would be 100.

What Rickey has put together is a career that will be the benchmark for all leadoff hitters in the future. Rickey was the best at working pitchers, which allowed the other players on the bench to see what the pitcher had to offer on that particular day. He was the best at turning a single or a walk into a double because of his base stealing ability, which is evident by his three seasons with over 100 stolen bases and 1,630 stolen bases overall.

The fact that Rickey has been able to amass large numbers over a period of time is not what makes his accomplishments exceptional. Rather, it is when his achievements are evaluated entirely and together that we see what makes them so outstanding. For example, take Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. Both were incredible hitters and both amassed more walks than anyone else in the game except for Rickey, but neither is among the 24 players in the 3,000 hit club. The two records together are just about impossible. The more a player walks, the more at-bats are taken out of his hands. The fact that he has so many hits and walks together, accompanied by his ability to steal bases, has given Rickey Henderson an excellent formula for success, a formula that very likely will stand for another 70+ years.

Over the final six games, Rickey will be playing the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies, both series of which will be played in San Diego. The hardest part for Rickey will be depending on the players around him to drive him in to break Ty Cobb’s record, but you can believe that with Rickey’s drive and determination he is letting the people around him know just how close he is to the title.

Because I’m a baseball fan who has been around the game my entire life, it seems sort of satisfying that Rickey will be breaking Ty Cobb’s record — because if he knew a Black Man was breaking his record, he’d be turning over in his grave right now. It’s also satisfying knowing that the very same media that has ripped Rickey throughout his career and that would not vote him into the Hall of Fame – that same media — will have no choice but to make him immortal by voting him into Cooperstown. So, for everyone who doesn’t like Rickey or feels he is overrated, there is nothing that can be done about it because he’s “Just That Damn Good!” (.a little excerpt from Triple H of the WWF).

Edited by Pam Gare