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Posts Tagged ‘Rickey Henderson’

In Cleveland, Rickey gets four steals after reaching on walks: two in the
sixth and two in the seventh. Both times he scores on sac flies by Canseco.
I realize it’s easy to go on and on about Henderson’s ability to create runs by himself, but still, four steals within two innings does make an
impression. The A’s beat Cleveland 8-6. Here’s the relevant lines from the
Chronicle:

Oakland’s largest run production since September 5 owed a lot to Rickey
Henderson and Tony Phillips. For the fifth time this year and 40th overall
in his ongoing big-league record, Henderson led off a game with a home run.
He also stole four bases. The first kicked off a five-run sixth inning. The
second, in the seventh inning, provided what seemed a superfluous run. The
A’s would eventually be grateful for it.
“Every time you see what he does, it’s amazing,” said La Russa. “There is
nobody like that in the game today.”

Phillips pushed a 4-3 A’s lead to 7-3 with a bases-loaded triple that
climaxed the sixth. He hit a 3-2 fastball from ex-A’s farmhand Jeff Kaiser
into the right-field corner. Phillips is having quite a September, hitting
.447 in 16 games.

Dave Henderson has begun calling innings like the seventh, when the other Henderson walked, stole second, stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly,
“a Rickey rally.” By whatever name, it came in handy.
An error by shortstop Mike Gallego opened things up for a three-run
Cleveland rally in the bottom of the seventh, and the Indians pulled within
8-6. That inning ended rather dramatically, as Matt Young came in to retire
Pete O’Brien with runners on first and second. Gene Nelson pitched a perfect
eighth and Eckersley did the same in the ninth.
“I wanted to get back out there before we left town,” said Eckersley, who blew a save here Monday night. “I didn’t want that to linger.”

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Before the ALCS with Toronto started, Rickey Henderson said: “I can say I was the final piece of the puzzle. They were missing a leadoff hitter, they were missing a left fielder. When I used to look at the Oakland team, I’d think about what was holding them back from being a great team. Maybe they were waiting for me to come back and fill that.

“I can create things and be a very productive player. I watched this team from the stands during the last playoffs (in 1988) and noticed that they lacked something exciting at the top of the order. I can give this team excitement at the top of the order. If we win the championship, I think I’ll be a difference because I can get on base and make things happen.

“When I played against them [in 1988], I didn’t think they were that good at all. I never thought they had that great a group of guys. Now, I think we have a tremendous team.”

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July 29

In what must be the best example of his ability to create value for his team without putting a ball in play all game, Rickey Henderson goes 0-0 against the Seattle Mariners, with Randy Johnson starting. He walks four times though, all of them against Johnson, and steals five bases. The end result of these nine self-produced bases: four runs scored. Nonetheless, the A’s get blown out, 14-6, with Storm Davis giving up 7 runs while getting one out, effectively destroying his chance to post an impressive ERA for the year despite his strong finish to the season. With the Yankees, Rickey had gone 1-2 with two walks, a steal, and a run scored against Johnson on May 30, in Johnson’s first start with the Mariners after being traded from Montreal. (Rickey winds up as the hitter who would draw the most walks from Johnson, 25, and also strikeout the most times, 29.)

The A’s get eight steals all told, all of them vs. Randy. Glenn Hubbard, in his final game with the A’s or anyone else, goes 0-4. Ken Griffey Jr. is on the DL from the incident in which he broke his right hand. An aside: he wouldn’t play with his father until next year. They would, on September 14, 1990, hit back-to-back homers in the first inning against the California Angels. Another aside: the A’s had won on the 28th when, after having a son born and his mother die on the same day, Bob Welch headed to the airport for the funeral in Kentucky. But he got stuck in traffic, turned around, made his start, and helped the A’s to an 8-7 win in 11, giving up three runs in seven innings before leaving to catch another flight back to Kentucky.

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I recently interviewed Mike Pagliarulo, starting third baseman for the Yankees from 1985 to mid-1989. The interview was primarily prompted by this picture on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle of him and Rickey Henderson embracing after hearing of Rickey’s trade to the A’s:

I talked with Mike about his response to learning that news, what he thought of the A’s teams of 1988 and 1989, and also his memories of playing against the Giants later in 1989, after he’d been traded to the Padres in July.

Q: To start off, I figured I’d ask if you remember the near-perfect game the A’s threw against the Yankees on May 26 in New York?
A: No, I don’t. What was that?

Q: The one guy to get on was Rickey Henderson, on an infield single, and then the very next hitter, Steve Sax maybe, hit into a double play. That was the only runner of the game.
A: Huh. That’s funny, I don’t know that game at all. We had an injury, someone-Winfield-was out with a bad back in 1989. That year my elbow was a mess. I tried to play, but it wasn’t fully recovered.

Q: What was your response when you learned of Rickey Henderson’s trade to the A’s?
A: In New York, we had all come up with each other in the Yankees’ tremendous minor league system. Played on the same teams, winning teams. And some guys from the organization, they had played with Rickey for 5 years. He was one of the guys, a great teammate, a phenomenal athlete, so it was hard to see people like him go.

Q: I was reading through some articles from the time, where the Yankees management was saying that Rickey’s legs were going, he wasn’t that great a player anymore. He’d been struggling a bit with the Yankees, but did you guys have any sense of him running down?
A: No, I wouldn’t say he was running down. When you play with a good teammate, you never want to see them go, whether they’re going well or not. You rely on each other day and day out, so you never expect someone to be traded. You never think in those terms. Rickey was a real impact player, he helped the whole lineup.

Baseball is the ultimate team game, your teammates affect how you play offense and defense, what kind of pitches you get to hit-look at the Red Sox this year, J.D. Drew batting ahead of Manny Ramirez, and how well he did. There are so many variables, it’s hard to say which one it is that impacts whether you do well.

Q: What was your impression of Greg Cadaret and Eric Plunk? Because when I went through those articles about the trade I saw Cadaret saying that at least in New York he’d still be able to talk about hunting and fishing with Plunk in the bullpen. Were they out of place in the Bronx?
A: [laughs] Well, some players don’t feel very comfortable in New York. It can be a rude awakening for some players, they’re out of place. Some, they adapt, but I was always real comfortable there, didn’t have to get used to New York.

Q: What, for you, were the biggest reasons why the A’s were so good in ’88 and ’89?
A: The A’s, they had those two big guys (McGwire and Canseco) coming up. I was talking to La Russa one day not long after he got hired by the A’s. When was that, 1986 or so? (It was.) And he had a pretty good plan for what to do with the team. They had Ron Hassey, a good friend and teammate with the Yankees.

On the A’s, everyone knew their role, what their job was, and that’s a compliment to La Russa. He ran a pretty tight ship, everyone had a place they fit into, and there was a really good mix of young and old players. Every good team I’ve been on has had that characteristic. It’s a prerequisite for winning. And they had really good coaches.

Lansford, he was a steady, steady, steady player, a real tough out. Stewart, I don’t remember how I did against. But like he was like Clemens: the ultimate challenge for a hitter. You want that so much-that challenge, and the great ones, they’re great challenges. The A’s were very prepared, they always gave their best game.

In ’89, we had a coach, Dallas Green, we went outside the organization to get him, and people said, “this guy’s not a Yankee”-he wasn’t Billy (Martin) or Pinella or Yogi Berra. So it was different: he had some trouble adjusting, it wasn’t easy there.

Q: And then you got traded to the Padres not long after Rickey went to Oakland. What did you remember from playing against the Giants late that year? You guys in San Diego were running right alongside the Giants for the division title.
A: I remember Matt Williams having a great year, and that guy in left field, Mitchell, just everything they had (offensively). You’d look up and boom! there’s the ball flying out of the yard. The Padres had a tremendous team, one of the most talented sets of players I’ve seen. We had Jack Clark, Bip Roberts, Alomar, Santiago, Gwynn, but we were missing one pitcher.

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Here’s Rickey’s signature in blue pen, on an official American League baseball from right around 1989.

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A Sports Illustrated cover shows Rickey Henderson stealing one of his many bases against the Blue Jays in the ALCS. The cover date is October 16, the day before Loma Prieta. This is a library copy, hence the two stamps.

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Sports Illustrated celebrated Rickey’s outstanding playoff performance against the Blue Jays with a cover photo and this spread photo introducing its article.

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