The fact that Rickey Henderson cruised to Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility was a surprise to no one. Widely considered the greatest lead-off man in the game’s history, Henderson paired an astounding .400+ on base percentage with an almost supernatural base stealing ability that found him slide in safely over 1400 times, outpacing the second place Lou Brock by nearly 500 thefts. His 2,295 runs scored is likewise the highest total in the history of Major League Baseball. Oh, and he is a member of the 3,000 Hit Club as well. When that distinction is an afterthought, you’ve had one heck of a career.
Still, Henderson received just 95% of the votes for induction, meaning that one out of every twenty ballots cast did not include him. A landslide, yes, but frankly not good enough. The most popular theory for Henderson’s absence on the twenty or so ballots that failed to be cast for him is that the superstar’s relationship with the media has not always been smooth. This is very likely an accurate diagnosis. And so it seems that a fair number of the kids who stormed away from the sandlot with the baseball because they didn’t get to play the position they wanted to play grew up to be sportswriters.
Non-Henderson voters, you should be ashamed. Cal Ripken received a higher percentage of votes! Sure, he deserves a place in Cooperstown as well, but (not counting The Streak) Ripken only leads one career offensive category -grounding into double plays. But for those ballot casters who chose Cal but passed on Rickey, the most relevant statistic of all was how many times the athlete made them smile versus how many times he made them frown. Grow up, people. Grow up.