Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hall Passes for Rickey and Jim Rice

It's a great day for baseball now that the greatest leadoff hitter ever (Rickey Henderson) and one of the feared hitters of his era (Jim Rice) have been enshrined in Cooperstown. Both were long overdue for different reasons - Rickey because he wouldn't retire soon enough and Rice getting in on his 15th and final try.

Rice endured some rough times in Boston - coming up short on two World Series, being arguably the first Black baseball superstar in a town with a tough media and racist tendencies (esp. during the busing situation during the start of his career) - but the Fenway faithful loved him for his big bat and big heart. The writers held grudges against him because he wasn't friendly enough (a common trait for Black ballplayers during the late 60's-70's) but they couldn't deny his numbers.

It's fitting that he's the 3rd straight LF from Boston to make the Hall following the immortal Ted Williams and the great Carl Yastremzki. But I'm more happy that a great travesty has been corrected in that Rice is finally in the Hall.

And then there's Rickey. What more can you say that he hasn't already said about himself. Maybe I can say that he effectively carried on the legacy of great Oakland ballplayers like Frank Robinson, Vida Pinson and Curt Flood and added on to it by influencing players like Dontrelle Willis, Jimmy Rollins and CC Sabathia.

He carried on the legacy of Jackie Robinson, Maury Wills and Lou Brock by changing the game with his speed and intelligence on the basepaths. He carried on the legacy of Satchel Paige with his colorful quotes and joy he brought to the game.

Without question, Henderson didn't just redefine the leadoff hitter the same way Cal Ripken Jr. redefined shortstops in the 80's. He's among the top 40-50 players in major league history and may be the most effective weapon baseball has seen in the last 30 years when you consider his on-base percentage, base-stealing prowess and ability to score runs.

I posted on Twitter some of the athletes whose throwback jersey I'd wear even though they weren't on my team. I forgot to mention Rickey cause I'd def. wear his No. 24 as a tribute of respect.

Here's to Rickey and Jim Rice - two great men who got well-deserved inductions into Cooperstown. I'm hoping to see Barry Larkin and Roberto Alomar get their due in 2010 - two of the best at their position in the 90's.

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