Rickey Nelson Henley Henderson is a retired professional baseball player who played for 9 Major League Baseball teams between 1979 and 2003. He was born on December 25, 1958 in Chicago, Illinois. His father left the family when he was two years old and later died in a car accident. His mother remarried a man named Paul Henderson when Rickey was in high school, and the Henley family adopted the Henderson name. He was naturally left handed but he developed the ability to bat right handed, making him one of the rare players who could use both hands skillfully. He graduated from Oakland Technical High School in 1976, where he played baseball, basketball and football and also participated in the track team.
Since childhood, Rickey Henderson had dreamed about playing football for the Oakland Raiders. He even received a dozen scholarships to play football but he turned down each of them in order to focus on baseball, especially as his mother advised him against it. He started his baseball career with the Minor Leagues. He played for different teams, including Boise A’s of the Northwest League, Jersey City A’s of the Eastern League and the Navojoa Mayos of the Mexican Pacific League between 1976 to 1979. In June 1979, he made his major league debut with Oakland Athletics on June 24, 1979.
During his time there he set several records. He was selected as a candidate for the Most Valuable Player Award and won a Golden Glove Award. He became the 3rd player to steal 100 bases in a season in 1980, setting an MLB as well as AL (American League) record. He surpassed this in 1980 by stealing 130 bases, setting a record which has not been broken since. In 1983, he set a historical record by scoring his third consecutive season with 100 runs, 100 stolen bases and 100 bases on balls. This monumental achievement has not been emulated or surpassed since 1900.
In 1985, he was traded to the New York Yankees. He was an immediate hit in his new team, leading the league in most runs scored as well as most bases stolen. The very year he joined was a record setting year for him, as he became the first player in MLB history to reach 80 stolen bases and 20 home runs, which came to be known as “the 80/20 club”. The only other player to have accomplished this to date is Eric Davis of the Cincinnati Reds. Despite the fact that in just four and a half seasons, Rickey Henderson held the Yankees’ franchise record for most stolen bases (which wasn’t broken until 2011 by Derek Jeter, who played 1700 more games to set that record) he was often a subject of media criticism, especially in New York.
Succumbing to this pressure, the Yankees traded him to Oakland Athletics in 1989. He dived into this trade with enthusiasm, setting new records and being named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. In 1991, he set one of his most memorable records to date, that of surpassing Lou Brock’s total number of bases stolen. After another brief trade to the Toronto Blue Jays, he became a free agent in 1993 and played with a number of teams for the next 10 years, including the Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, New York Mets and Seattle Mariners. He retired in 2003 and became a coach for the New York Mets. In July 2009, Rickey Henderson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.