Padres honor Rickey at their HOF Weekend
Fleet-footed outfielder recently inducted into Cooperstown
SAN DIEGO -- Rickey Henderson played for nine teams during a career that spanned 25 seasons, yet his three separate stops in San Diego stood out to him for reasons other than the three personal milestones he set with the Padres.
"Great memories ... being able to come here and have the opportunity to play with Tony Gwynn," said Henderson, who last month was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. "You heard so much in the American League about how he was a great player, a great hitter.
"San Diego welcomed me. They made me feel like I was at home. The fans treated me well. They respected me. They cheered their heart out for me."
Henderson played parts of three seasons (1996, 1997 and 2001) with San Diego, appearing in 359 games. In 2001, Henderson became the Major League leader in career walks and runs scored and also collected his 3,000th hit while a member of the Padres.
Henderson is in San Diego this weekend for the Padres Hall of Fame Weekend. He was honored before Friday's game against the New York Mets at PETCO Park.
On Saturday, former Padres manager Dick Williams, who was inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame last year, will be inducted into the Padres Hall of Fame.
Henderson didn't play long enough in San Diego to achieve any notable club milestones, but his mark was certainly felt.
San Diego general manager Kevin Towers was barely a month on the job as GM in December 1995 when he signed Henderson to a two-year contract worth $4 million. Towers quickly found himself in awe of a player he grew up watching.
"Growing up in the Bay Area, I grew up watching Rickey. Even as an executive, having Rickey here ... I was star-struck," Towers said earlier this year.
Henderson scored 110 runs and had a .410 on-base percentage in 1996, helping to spark the Padres to their first National League West title since 1994. Henderson was traded in August 1997 to the Angels, though Towers had difficulty finding him so he could break the news.
"Billy [Angels general manager Bill Bavasi] wanted him that night. So I called to get the latest alias list and called the hotel downtown where Rickey was staying," Towers said. "... I first asked for Cool Papa Bell, and the clerk said no one by that name was staying there. Then I tried Ice-T. I tried once more, asking for Richard Pryor. It worked. She said 'I can't believe he was staying here.'"
Henderson led the AL in steals 12 times, and he holds the Major League record for steals (1,406), runs scored (2,295), unintentional walks (2,129) and homers leading off a game (81). He was a 10-time All-Star and the 1990 AL MVP.
"Rickey could do just about anything. He was a one-man wrecking machine at times," Towers said. "The confidence this man exuded. He had no fear. He was bigger than life. I know they broke the mold when they made Rickey."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.