Raise your hand if you were watching today's Hall of Fame inductions--specifically, Rickey Henderson's speech--because you wanted him to be, y'know, "Rickeyhennerson." This guy. It's okay to admit it. We (not so) secretly wanted it too.
To the best of our knowledge, there had never been a Hall of Fame speech conducted entirely in the third person, and Henderson seemed to be the prohibitivie favorite to become the first such speaker. So was Rickey going to tell ridiculous stories about his legendary talent, compare himself favorably to all others around him, and take us all on a trip to Planet Rickey?
Well, not exactly. We may decry the predictable, almost boilerplate nature of Hall of Fame speeches (start with youth, talk about your favorite minor league coach, drop some names, thank everyone), but there's a reason they're all like that; it's what's important. So everybody follows that script, even Rickey himself.
Sure enough, though Rickey took liberties with tense, plurals, and pronunciation--see his hailing of "Luke Gehrig" and his assertion that "Mom do knows best," he played everything in a respectful, conservative tone.
Rickey told stories about growing up and wanting to play for Oakland--the Raiders, mind you, not the A's that adorn his cap on his plaque, about his favorite minor league coach, and about all the great players whose paths crossed with his over the years. The biggest reaction from the crowd didn't come when the word "Rickey" came out of his mouth; we're pretty sure that never happened. No, it was a story about how a young Henderson always asked Reggie Jackson for an autograph and never got one, only a pen with Jackson's name on it.
Henderson did manage a fine bait-and-switch at the end of his speech. He invoked the name of his longtime hero, Muhammad Ali (on the Richter Scale of surprises, this was about a 0.0), then began musing about the greatness of the members of the Halll of Fame. Astute baseball fans' ears perked up because it was starting to sound a whole lot like the end of Henderson's speech after he passed Lou Brock for the most stolen bases of all time:
â‡¥â‡¥â‡¥Lou Brock was the symbol of great base stealing. But today, I'm the greatest of all time. Thank you.
But no; Rickey, ever wily, ended things on a different tone:
â‡¥â‡¥â‡¥My journey as a player is complete. I am now in the class of the greatest players of all time. And at this moment, I am very, very humbled.â†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.