MLB Network really pulled out all the stops on a slow sports night. After the special on the 1971 Pirates, they aired School of Rickey, a short documentary about Rickey Henderson; the greatest base-stealer of all-time.
The special opened with Tony LaRussa and Dave Stewart talking about how Rickey’s flair was really what made him a trendsetter and trail blazer. For instance, you see Bryce Harper today and his flair that maybe he picked up from Barry Bonds. Well, there’s a chance that Barry Bonds and other players from that era picked up some of that flair from Rickey himself.
There was lots of talk about the City of Oakland and how it is actually a small, enclosed city.
I guess I didn’t realize that Rickey Henderson was actually from Oakland, California (Bushrod Park). Like Jimmy Rollins said, Rickey was Oakland. Local kids would go to the park just to see him play because he grew up in the area. He was edgy and dangerous, tough and resilient like the Bay Area city he was from.
Henderson got swagger and confidence also from growing up in Oakland.
Rickey had a gun pulled on him when he was 12 at a park right next to his home. When I think of the number 24, I think of Ken Griffey Jr. But I also think of Rickey Henderson. I hadn’t realized he wore numbers 39, and 35 in Oakland when his career began.
When Henderson got traded back to Oakland in 1989, he was expected to be a trouble-maker. He was the exact opposite, a great teammate and really came into his own. One might have thought that at age 31 he was slowing down. But he was really just getting started. He won a world title in 1989 with those Oakland Athletics.
I also had no idea that Dave Stewart was a local Oakland guy – and he was featured prominently in this documentary.
In 1987, Harold Reynolds won the stolen base title. This was the only time in the 1980’s that Harold Reynolds won the stolen base title. Rickey called Reynolds to make fun of him for winning the stolen base title with just 60 stolen bases.
Bat flips, rounding the bases extra-wide, trotting, pimping it out of the box, one handed hot-dog catches. Rickey did it all. He was an entertainer looked upon fondly. This special did a great job of capturing that appreciation for this once in a lifetime player.