Rickey Henderson swipes five bags, scores four runs without an official at-bat
It was never a good idea to give Rickey Henderson a free pass.
But on July 29, 1989, one Hall of Fame pitcher found it nearly impossible to keep Henderson off the base paths or from crossing home plate.
The Athletics lost to the Mariners 14-6, but Henderson put on a show for the Oakland fans nonetheless. Facing Randy Johnson, who was then in his first season with Seattle, Henderson walked four times in the game and came around to score every time he reached base, tallying five stolen bases and four runs scored without recording an official at-bat.
“I’m expecting to be on Henderson’s Christmas list,” Johnson told the Associated Press.
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Henderson, who batted leadoff and played left field in the game for Oakland, led off the bottom of the first with his first walk of the day, then stole second and third before scoring on an error by Johnson.
In the bottom of the third, Henderson drew another leadoff walk and stole second, then scored on a double. He walked again in the bottom of the fifth, then promptly stole second and scored on a throwing error by the third baseman.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Henderson drew his fourth walk, later stealing second and scoring on a double to mark his fourth run scored in the game.
“I was just trying to create things and make something happen,” Henderson told the San Francisco Examiner.
Henderson’s five stolen bases marked a career-high for the future Hall of Famer and tied an A’s record set by Bert Campaneris in 1976. Henderson was one stolen base away from matching Hall of Famer Eddie Collins’ modern era record of six in a game.
After scoring his fourth run, Henderson was lifted from the game in the ninth before he could bat again.
“He was running early in the game because we wanted to play nine innings and do things to try to come back,” Oakland manager Tony La Russa told the Sacramento Bee. “I would have shut him down in the ninth anyway. It’s one of those things I’ve seen other clubs get upset about. But when you’re behind, you have the right to do everything you can to get back in the game – including running when you’re 10 down.”
Henderson, who began his career in Oakland before being dealt to the Yankees in 1984, had been traded back to the Athletics a little more than a month earlier on June 21, 1989. He was in his 11th major league season at the time and had already established himself as one of the most successful base runners ever to play the game, having led the American League in stolen bases eight times. Henderson would finish the 1989 season with a major league-best 77 steals.
Henderson closed out his 25-year MLB career in 2003 holding all-time records with 1,406 career stolen bases, 2,295 runs scored and 2,123 unintentional walks. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009.
Janey Murray was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum