25 December 2013

rickey got some final tributes

today is many things - the last tuesday of the year, christmas, and rickey henderson's 55th birthday.  i'm sure rickey got shorted on gifts as a kid due to the dual birthday/christmas thing, but perhaps rickey used that as fuel to motivate rickey into becoming, as he said, the greatest.

back in 2003, rickey spent his last days in the major leagues with the dodgers who had plucked rickey out of the atlantic league in the hopes that rickey would jumpstart the team, or at least put some fans in the seats.

here's rickey's 2004 upper deck card
it doesn't look like there were too many fans coming out to see rickey.  that's too bad.  i remember the first time i saw rickey play - it was at the big a in anaheim and some youth group i was in took a trip to see some billy ball in 1982, the year rickey stole 130 bases.  it was great - rickey stole a couple of bases, billy martin came out to yell at an umpire, and we all went home happy.

as for that upper deck card, it features rickey's complete major league career stats on the back, as a true final tribute should.
those are some big numbers.  at the time of rickey's retirement (or at the end of the 2003 season, as rickey didn't officially retire), rickey was the all-time leader in stolen bases, walks (not shown), and runs scored.  rickey is still number one in steals and runs scored, but barry bonds wound up walking more times than rickey.

rickey had other cards in 2004 which, as a dodger collector, pleased me.  this is a 2004 playoff absolute memorabilia (retail version) card
here's the back
for the record, since it's not on the back of any of these cards, rickey walked 11 times as a dodger.  rickey was 20th on the all-time hit list after the 2003 season,  rickey has since been bumped to 22nd as craig biggio and derek jeter have both passed rickey in recent years.

here's a 2004 donruss team heroes card of rickey
here on the back, we can see that rickey had 3 of the dodgers' 80 team steals in 2003
a little bit fancier now, here's a 2004 donruss timeless treasures card of rickey
the back notes that rickey broke ty cobb's career runs record with a home run.
rickey slid into home plate to celebrate, just like yasiel puig did last year on his first walk-off homer.  admittedly, rickey had a few more years under rickey's belt when rickey did it.

not all of rickey's 2004 cards showed him as a dodger.  this is a 2004 donruss lumber & leather card featuring rickey as an athletic
rickey had four different stints with the a's.  the back of this card features a photo of a younger rickey
i am still of the mind that billy beane should have signed rickey to a contract in september of 2004.  the rosters were expanded, and rickey could still play (rickey was playing independent ball at the time).  yes, the a's were playing for a division title (they finished one game behind the angels), but rickey could have pulled some herb washington duty as a designated pinch runner.  plus, the a's were eliminated by the angels in game 161.  rickey could have suited up for game 162 at the coliseum and finished rickey's career in front of the home crowd.

unfortunately, rickey's last professional game was played in 2005 as a member of the san diego surf dogs dawgs in the golden baseball league.  strangely enough, billy beane did pluck a player off of the surf dawgs' roster in '05, but it was disappointing twins' prospect adam johnson, not rickey.  so that meant that, fortunately for me, rickey's last major league games were played as a member of the dodgers.  that means that rickey's 2004 upper deck vintage card (featuring a dodger usher appearing to be a first base coach) is also a final tribute card
it's too bad that upper deck didn't do rickey's full career stats on the back, though, as they did with rickey's flagship card shown up top.
and, while the text on the back notes that rickey homered in his second game as a dodger, rickey also homered in his fourth game as a dodger. the dodgers didn't win that game, but the home run was the last of rickey's career, and it was also (quite appropriately) a lead-off homer.  it is also worth noting that rickey stole for the last time in rickey's career in a game against the rockies with greg zaun as the catcher.  about three weeks later, in rickey's final big league plate appearance, rickey was hit by a pitch.  rickey took second on a sacrifice and then scored on a shawn green single.  and that was the end of rickey's major league career.

merry christmas everybody, and happy birthday rickey!