Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice elected to Hall of Fame

Published 9:38 pm Tuesday, January 13, 2009

By By MIKE FITZPATRICK, AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK — Rickey Henderson dashed into the Hall of Fame on his first try, Jim Rice made it with a final swing.
It’s hard to imagine their induction speeches will have much in common, either.
That never stopped Henderson — but neither did opposing pitchers or catchers during his 25-year career.
The undisputed standard for leadoff hitters, Henderson received 94.8 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in balloting announced Monday, well above the 75 percent needed.
Rice, among the game’s most feared sluggers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, got 76.4 percent in his 15th and final year on the ballot after falling just shy with 72.2 percent last year.
Henderson, baseball’s career leader in runs scored and stolen bases, became the 44th player elected in his first year of eligibility. Rice was only the third elected by the BBWAA in his final year, joining Red Ruffing (1967) and Ralph Kiner (1975).
The pair will be inducted into the Hall during ceremonies on July 26 in Cooperstown, N.Y. They’ll be joined by former Yankees and Indians second baseman Joe Gordon, elected posthumously last month by the Veterans Committee.
Henderson spoke on a conference call before boarding a flight to New York. He was rushing right along, even on this day.
Only fitting.
Next up, his highly anticipated induction speech. Known for his confounding comments, Henderson has a penchant for referring to himself in the third person — at any point during an amusing stream of sometimes indecipherable chatter.
Henderson was picked on 511 of 539 ballots and Rice was selected on 412, just above the 405 needed.
Rice received only 29.8 percent of the vote in 1995, when he appeared on the ballot for the first time. He initially topped 50 percent in 2000 and reached 64.8 percent in 2006 — the highest percentage for a player who wasn’t elected in a later year was 63.4 by Gil Hodges in 1983, his final time on the ballot.
Some thought Rice’s prickly personality and curt relationship with reporters during his playing career helped keep him out of the Hall all those years.
What did he learn all these years?
Andre Dawson fell 44 votes short with 67 percent. He was followed by Bert Blyleven (62.7 percent), Lee Smith (44.5), Jack Morris (44.0), Tommy John (31.7) and Tim Raines (22.6). John appeared on the ballot for the final time.
Mark McGwire, stigmatized by accusations he used performance-enhancing drugs, received 118 votes (21.9 percent) in his third year of eligibility, down from the 128 votes he got in each of his first two tries.
Henderson, who played with McGwire in Oakland, said the first baseman was one of the best people he’s ever been around.
Henderson, the 1990 AL MVP, was a 10-time All-Star who swiped 1,406 bases, one shy of 50 percent more than Lou Brock, who is in second place with 938. Henderson batted .279 with 297 homers, 1,115 RBIs, 2,190 walks and 2,295 runs. He owns the modern-day season record with 130 steals in 1982, and the career mark with 81 leadoff homers. He played for Oakland, the Yankees, Toronto, San Diego, Anaheim, the Mets, Seattle, Boston and the Dodgers.
Henderson wanted to be a football star before his mother persuaded him to give pro baseball a try, figuring it offered a better chance at a long career.
If it were up to Henderson, now 50, he’d still be playing ball.
Henderson wasn’t sure which team’s cap will go on his Hall of Fame plaque. He gets some say in the matter, but ultimately it’s the Hall’s decision.
Henderson was with his family when he got the call Monday and pointed out that they have been with him through ‘‘all the glory and the headaches.’’
Rice, the 1978 AL MVP, was an eight-time All-Star who hit 382 home runs in 16 seasons with the Boston Red Sox from 1974-89. He had a .298 career batting average and 1,451 RBIs, and from 1977-79 averaged .320 with 41 homers and 128 RBIs.
He becomes the fourth Hall of Famer to have spent his entire career with the Red Sox, joining fellow left fielders Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski, along with second baseman Bobby Doerr.
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.