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The One and Only

Posted at 7:59 PM on May 10, 2005 by David Zingler


Most athletes have a hard time hanging it up, others like Rickey Henderson, simply refuse. On Monday, as noted by fellow blogger Ben Tesch, Henderson inked a deal to play for the San Diego Surf Dawgs of the appropriately named (at least in Rickey's case) Golden Baseball League. The announcement caused more than a few snickers in the media.

Interestingly, the Surf Dawgs (what an terrible name) play their home games in Tony Gwynn Stadium. Henderson played with Gwynn in two stints with the Padres (1996-97 & 2001) and is almost a year and a half older than the Padres legend.

Rickey's pro career began in the summer of 1976 with the Boise A's, then Oakland?s short season, rookie ball affiliate. At that time America was celebrating its bicentennial and incumbent Gerald Ford was in a heated presidential campaign with Georgia govenor Jimmy Carter.

Since then we've been through a term of Carter, eight years of Ronnie, four of George I, two terms with Bubba and now, for better or worse, are in the midst of the W era: six presidents, three decades, one Rickey. I turned 30 last January, which means Rickey has been playing professional baseball for about as long as I have been eating solid foods.

Growing up, I actually didn't much care for Rickey. My first memories of him are fuzzy ones of a young speedster running roughshod over my beloved Brewers at County Stadium in the early 1980s. He was a self-absorbed jerk, I was told, while Kirby Puckett was role model and true hero. It's amazing how time changes perceptions.

In 2001 Rickey broke Babe Ruth's all time walk record (since surpassed by Barry Bonds), Ty Cobb's all time runs scored record and got his 3,000th hit. A decade earlier, he eclipsed Lou Brock's all time stolen base record. Nobody has a resume like Rickey.

Instead of mocking Henderson, we should respect and appreciate his longevity and personality, stand in awe of his accomplishments and cheer him on, wherever and whenever he plays.

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

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