Rickey Henderson used the ultimate combination of power and speed to break numerous major league baseball records during his career.
But what solidified his place in baseball history was his love for the game.
"If my uniform doesn't get dirty, I haven't done anything in the baseball game," Henderson said.
Born on Dec. 25, 1958 in Chicago Ill., Henderson spent most of his childhood in Oakland, Calif. An accomplished running back in high school, Henderson turned down multiple football scholarships to sign with the Oakland Athletics in 1976.
In his first major league season 1980, Henderson broke Hall of Famer Ty Cobb’s 65-year-old American League stolen base record of 96 with 100 swipes. In 1982, he stole 130 bases, breaking Hall of Famer Lou Brock’s major league single-season record of 118.
“He's the greatest leadoff hitter of all time. I'm not sure there's a close second,” said Billy Beane, former Athletics general manager.
He played for nine teams over his 25-year career including the Athletics, Yankees, Padres, Mets, Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, Mariners and Blue Jays. He led the American League in steals 12 times and went on to be the all-time record holder with 1,406, earning him the nickname “Man of Steal”.
“It wasn't until I saw Rickey that I understood what baseball was about. Rickey Henderson is a run, man,” said Athletics teammate Mitchell Page. “That's it. When you see Rickey Henderson, I don't care when, the score's already 1-0. If he's with you, that's great. If he's not, you won't like it.”
His speed wasn’t his only skill. Henderson set all-time records for runs scored (2,295) and unintentional walks (2,129). The 10-time All-Star won the AL MVP Award in 1990, leading the league in runs scored, stolen bases and on-base percentage. He finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting five other times.
“He was one of the best players that I ever played with and obviously the best leadoff hitter in baseball," said Hall of Famer Dave Winfield.
Henderson won two World Series during his career, in 1989 with Oakland and in 1993 with Toronto. He spent most of his career in left field and won a Gold Glove Award in 1981. He finished with a .279 batting average with 3,055 hits and 297 home runs. He electrified crowds with his flair and enthusiasm for the game.
Henderson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009.
"There was only one Rickey Henderson in baseball," said George Steinbrenner, former Yanks chairman. "He was the greatest leadoff hitter of all time.”