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Henderson and Rice Elected to Hall

Posted by tothewire on January 13, 2009

Rickey Henderson’s glorious career was defined by speed and success. Those themes of doing it fast and doing it well continued on Monday when Henderson was elected into the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot.

Rickey Henderson broke Lou Brock’s career stolen-base record in 1991, and finished with 1,406.

Rickey Henderson broke Lou Brock’s career stolen-base record in 1991, and finished with 1,406.

 

While Henderson, one of baseball’s best leadoff hitters, rumbled into the Hall with 94.8 percent of the vote, Jim Rice squeezed through a closing door. In his 15th, and final, year of eligibility, he notched 76.4 percent of the vote; he was on 412 of the 539 ballots cast, meaning he got seven more votes than the required 405.

In order to be elected into the Hall, players need 75 percent of the vote from 10-year members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. After Rice, outfielder Andre Dawson, who played 21 seasons, mostly with the Expos and Cubs, finished with 67 percent of the vote, and pitcher Bert Blyleven received 62.7 percent.

Mark McGwire, whose career has been clouded by suspicions of steroid use, saw his percentage drop to 21.9 percent from 23.6 percent.

Henderson was one of the game’s best at being a pest. He would do anything to get on base and loved stealing bases and scoring runs. He is the career leader in stolen bases (1,406) and runs scored (2,295), and also had 2,190 walks, the second highest total, and 3,055 hits.

“I feel great about it,” Henderson said. “It’s been a long time coming. I played baseball because I loved the game. I wanted to continue playing. It came to a time that I had to stop. And now that it has been five years, they have chosen me to go into the Hall of Fame. I cannot be any more pleased or thrilled about it.”

In 25 seasons Henderson played with nine teams, including four stints with the Oakland Athletics. He helped the A’s win a World Series title in 1989 and was voted the most valuable player a year later. Tony La Russa, who managed Henderson, a left fielder, with the A’s, called him a dangerous player.

While Henderson will have input in what cap is on his plaque, officials from the Hall make that decision. He had his greatest impact with the A’s and acknowledged that the Oakland cap, “has the edge right now.”

When Dennis Eckersley, a Hall of Fame closer who was Henderson’s teammate on the A’s, was asked about Henderson’s candidacy, he said: “To me, he’s a slam dunk. I’m talking about 98 percent.”

Rice, the feared hitter from the Boston Red Sox, was never a slam dunk with voters. It took Rice 15 ballots to get elected. But now Rice will share a stage with Henderson in Cooperstown. Unlike the traveling Henderson, Rice played his entire 16-year career with the Red Sox. He had 382 homers, 1,451 runs batted in, hit .298 and won one M.V.P. award.

After Rice, a left fielder, received 72.2 percent of the vote last year, the odds were in his favor to be elected. Of the 20 players who had received at least 70 percent of the vote before their eligibility expired, all 20 were elected. Rice is now the 21st.

By JACK CURRY

NYTIMES

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