Rickey Henderson

Major League Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Speech

delivered 26 July 2009, Cooperstown, OH

 

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[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Hey, hey. I hope everybody is having a great time. First, I would like to thank God, the Baseball Writer['s] Association of America, and the Commission[er] of Baseball for this true honor. I also want to thanks the member[s] of the Hall of Fame for being here today. Thank you.

I love the game of baseball. That's why it was so hard for me to walk away from the game. I thought if Satchel Paige can start playing major league baseball at the age of 45, then with my dedication, hard work, and desire, I can play the game until my body said it was time to hang it up.

I wouldn't be standing here today if it wasn't for my wife, Pamela, who took care of the home while I was away, and brought up -- brought up our wonderful daughter and supported me in my career. Thank you, and I love you.

To all my beautiful and intelligent daughter[s], I wouldn't be a complete man without your love and support. I love you, girls.

A special thanks to my mother, Bobbie. Back in high school, I played football, a little hoops, and baseball. My dream was to play football for the Oakland Raiders. But my mom thought I would get hurt playing football, so she chosed baseball for me. I guess mom do knows best. Thanks, mom.

I would like to say thanks to my father, my brothers, and my sister for their support. To my father and mother-in-law for always being there when I need them, I would like to say thank you.

Several of my high school friend[s] are here today to help me celebrate this wonderful and important event. I want to say thank you.

Now let me tell you a story about how I got into playing baseball. When I was a kid in Oakland, Mr. Hank Thomas tricked me into playing Babe Ruth baseball by coming to pick me up with a glazed donut and a cup of hot chocolate. That was the way he would get me up and out of bed and onto the ballpark.

My first year in high school, my favorite sport was football. I did not like baseball. My counselor, Mrs. Wilkinson, bribed me into playing baseball. She would pay me a quarter every time I would get a hit, a run score[d], or stole a base. After my first ten game[s], I had 30 hits, 25 runs scored, and 33 steal[s]. Not bad money for a kid in high school.1

As a kid growing up in Oakland, my heroes were Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson. What about that Reggie Jackson? I stand out on the ballpark in -- in the parking lot waiting for Reggie Jackson to give me a[n] autograph. Reggie used to come out all the time and I'd say, "Reggie, can I have a[n] autograph?" He would pass me a pen with his name on it. He -- He never gave me a[n] autograph.

To all my coaches out there that taught me along the way, I want to say thank you for believing in me.

I would like to give a very, very special thank[s] to James Guinn, the scout that signed me out of high school. He believed in my talent as a baseball player when teams was afraid to draft players that throw left handed and bat right -- right handed.

In 1976, my first year in the minors league, my coach, Tom Treblehorn, helped me develop my skill in base running and taught me to play the game hard. I had not perfected how to take a lead or how to slide. Tom asked me to come to practice early every day and work on my sliding and base running skill. I guess, Tom, that hard work paid off for me, and I am very grateful.

In June of 1979, I received a call from Charlie O. Finley. He wanted me to play in the big league for the Oakland A['s]. That's what the most [sic] thrilling time of my life, playing the game that I loved in my home town in front of my family and friend[s] was a dream come true. Charlie, wherever you at, and that donkey, I want to say thank you for the opportunity.

In 1980, the A's hired a new manager that I would look up to for the rest of my life, one of the best teacher[s] and manager[s] anyone could ever play for, Mr. Billy Martin. Billy always got the most out of me. He taught me to compete at the highest level and respect the game of baseball. Billy, I miss you very much, and I wish you were here with me today.

Without the Haas family, Mr. Wolf of the Oakland A's, the City of Oakland, John Morres of the San Diego Padre[s], George Steinbrenner of the New York Yankees and the other general manager[s] and owners of major League baseball team[s], I would not be here or the player that I became. Thank you for giving me the chance to play the game that I love so much.

I played with the some of the greatest players in the game: Jim Rice, Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield, Tony Gwynn, I called him "Dennis the Eck"2, Cal Ripken, Jr., Dave Henderson, and my best friend and long friend Dave Stewart, and so many other players that I will never forget.

It is a[n] honor to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and have my name next to player[s] like Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Lou Gehrig, Roberto Clemente, and the list goes on and on.

I would like to congratulate Jim Rice and Joe Gordon. It is a pleasure to be inducted into the Hall of Fame with you gentlemen.

In my career, I had the good fortune to play for nine teams. It was wonderful because this allowed me to meet fans all over the country. It's the fans that makes the game fun. To all the fans, thank you, thank you, thank you for your wonderful support over all these years.

I would like to thank everyone here and all over the country for sharing this special moment with me and my family. To all the kids out there: Follow your dream; believe in your dream; because dreams do come true.

When you think of me, I would like you to remember that kid from the inner city that played the game with all his heart and never took the game for granted. Thanks everyone here for making my dream come true today.

In closing, I would like to say my favorite player -- my favorite hero was Mohammad Ali. He said at one time (quote), "I am the greatest" (end of quote). That is something I always wanted to be. And now that the Association has voted me into the Baseball Hall of Fame -- Hall of Fame, my journey as a player is complete. I am now in the class of the greatest players of all time. And at this moment, I am very, very humble.

Thank you.


1 Total earnings = $22.00

2 Dennis Eckersley

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