Rickey, Rice get keys to Hall

Associated PressJanuary 13, 2009 

NEW YORK — Rickey Henderson dashed into the Hall of Fame on his first try, while Jim Rice made it with a final swing.

It's hard to imagine their induction speeches will have much in common, either.

"I'm going to leave all the stories to Rickey," Rice said, confirming that his remarks in Cooperstown this summer are likely to match his personality. "Believe me, it's going to be short and quick. I don't think you need to go there and talk for 15 or 20 minutes when you can get right to the point."

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.

"The only thing I can say is I'm glad it's over with," the Boston outfielder said. "I'm in there, and they can't take it away."

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.

"I feel great about it. It's been a long time coming," Henderson said. "I was nervous, waiting."

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.

"It's really just an honor to me. I'm really just spaced out," he said. "I haven't really thought about what I'm going to say."

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.

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.

"I don't think I was difficult to deal with for writers. I think the writers were difficult to me," he said. "I wasn't going to badmouth my teammates. When you start talking about my teammates or what goes on outside baseball, I couldn't do that.

"I don't know why it took me so long. I don't even want to think about it," he added. "I'm just happy I'm in, and that's what I'm going to cherish."

What did he learn all these years?

"Be patient and wait until the last out," Rice said.

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 in his third year of eligibility, down from the 128 votes he got in each of his first two tries.

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