Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Gems of Junk Wax, Pt. 25: 1992 Topps #2 Rickey Henderson RB

It was always my dream in Little League.

I wanted to steal a base. Even better, I wanted to steal a base sliding headfirst into the bag.

I wanted to be Rickey Henderson on the basepaths.

Unfortunately, we almost never stole bases in Little League, so I never got my shot to slide headfirst. I don't even remember stealing a bag in my "career".

There's been a number of prominent base stealers in major league history, but no one ever did it better than Rickey Henderson.

When you bring up the term "unbreakable records" in baseball, it's mostly dead-ball era numbers. Cy Young's 511 wins. Ty Cobb's .367 career average (or .366, depending on where you look).

I always enjoy the sheer jaw-dropping amazement of those records, but I also understand that the game was completely different in those days.

There's been very few records labeled as "unbreakable" in post-WWII baseball. One of those is Rickey Henderson's stolen base record.

He broke Lou Brock's previous record of 938 swipes in a game against the Yankees on May 1, 1991, netting his 939th career steal when he slid safely into third base in the 4th inning. (It was also his 216th career steal of third at that point, according to the back of this card.)

I've got a few great cards that showcase this astounding achievement (this one is another of my favorites), but this 1992 Topps issue perfectly captures the moment, a split-second before he hugs third base with the record steal.

He'd finish his career with 1,406 career steals. To put that in perspective, a guy could steal 100 bags for 14 straight seasons and still come up short. Vince Coleman was the last to steal 100 bases in a season when he stole 109. In 1987.  

Yeah, I think that record is going to stand for a long, long time.

I'm sure I wasn't the only one who wanted to be "Rickey" on the basepaths, but we all knew none of us could ever be like him.

After all, there was only one Rickey Henderson.


topher (Crackin Wax/Varsity Trading Cards) said...

Could be worse... you could have wanted to be like Nick Punto, sliding head-first into First Base trying desperately to stretch routine groundouts into base hits and failing every time.

hiflew said...

It pains me to see the words "In 1987" used as emphasis for a long time ago. But enough of my being old.

I think both Nolan Ryan's strikeout and no hitter record will probably stand for a long time as well.

Although the one record I don't think will ever be broken is Sam Crawford's career triples record of 309. Since Roberto Clemente passed away in 1972 with 166 the closest has been Willie Wilson with 147, not even halfway there. And the closest active player is Carl Crawford with 112. People are at least getting over halfway to Cy Young.

night owl said...

Stealing bases is what I did best playing youth baseball. But I never slid head-first. It looked painful.

AdamE said...

There is one record that NOBODY will ever break. Not only will they no one break this record I speak of but they will not get even a quarter of the complete games that Cy Young pitched. Roy Halladay is the active career leader with 66 complete games. That means he is 8% of the way to the 749 Young pitched.

Another untouchable is the single season CG record of 75 that Will White threw in 1879.

You should be receiving the package I mailed any time now...

Cory said...

Rickey believes there is only one Rickey. Rickey says it so it must be true.
Rickey believes the rest are just rickeys. Rickey is the greatest baseball player ever.
Rickey says so. Rickey says leave me alone. Rickey goes away.

Cory said...

My current favorite record is Earl Webb's 67 doubles in 1931. I thought Helton would eclipse it one day but, no.

Then I thought Brian Roberts would. Nope.

I'm putting Billy Butler on the spot to beat it this year or next.

70 doubles would look cool italicized and astericked on the back of ones card, wouldn't it?