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.