Via John Shea:
He hit. He walked. He ran. He stole. He scored. Now he’ll speak.
Rickey Henderson, let’s hear it.
Today’s has to be the most anticipated speech in Hall of Fame history, doesn’t it? There was Yogi Berra, whose unique style of word usage has gone commercial. Dennis Eckersley, who had his own language, “Eck-speak.” Bill Mazeroski, who said basically nothing in his Hall of Fame speech, too broken up to read his 12 pages.
Now it’s Rickey’s time, and nobody does English like Rickey.
Asked if he heard from Hall of Famers on what to expect with his speech, Rickey said, “They told me don’t be too long because they’ll talk about me and go to sleep. So I’m trying to keep it under the time zone.”
“It’s been hectic, man. You know, speech and me don’t even get along sometimes.”
“I wasn’t a doctor or professor. So me trying to write a speech or read a speech, that’s kind of like putting a tie too tight around my neck.”
Until now, the speech Henderson is known for most came after he broke Lou Brock’s all-time steals record at the Coliseum in 1991. “Lou Brock was the symbol of great basestealing. But today, I’m the greatest of all time,” he said, drawing heaps of criticism.
It was one sound bite in a longer address in which he thanked God, fans, Oakland, the A’s, ownership, friends, Billy Martin and, most of all, his mother. But the “greatest of all time” line is what’s played over and over.
Regardless, it was all Rickey. From his heart.
That’s his aim today, too.
“You try to leave out nobody,” Henderson said. “You tell the story of how you got there, the road you took, and thank everybody. You talk about the organizations and the people you played with, all the people who helped me along the way, who gave me the opportunity for being where I am today.
“That’s what you try to do, and I ain’t going to get it all in. The guys already told me I’ve got a short period of time, and they don’t want me to talk fast because I’m going to mess up everything.”
That’s why Henderson sought help and went back to school. Literally.
Before coming to Cooperstown, he attended a half-dozen of Earl Robinson’s speech classes at Oakland’s Laney College, reading his speech to students and accepting critique. Robinson, who played for the 1958 Dodgers and early ’60s Orioles, got to know Rickey when working for the A’s in the ’80s and was reintroduced to him by Fred Atkins, Rickey’s close friend, and Jim Guinn, the scout who signed him.
At first, Rickey read Robinson a rough draft. Then Robinson suggested some class time, and Rickey was all for it and tweaked his speech after getting input from Robinson’s students.
“He’s prepared as well as he can be,” Robinson said. “I anticipate he’ll give a heartfelt speech.”
While nothing will ever beat the Scooter’s speech, I’m really looking forward to hearing Rickey Henderson tomorrow. Should be a blast.