Having spent a couple years covering athletes on the cusp of making the big time, I know just how off putting someone who believes their own hype can be. Guys that can't answer a single question about the team without bringing up how their own contributions make it great. Players referring to the themselves in the third person are probably the ultimate example of someone who has completely lost touch with reality.
Despite all that, there will always be a special place in my heart for Rickey Henderson. Yes, he had a big personality and an equally big ego, but the guy was pure magic on the base paths. Speed kills in every sport, but Rickey showed how dangerous that plus a little bit of intelligence can be.
I watched Peter Gammons lament about how smart a baseball player Henderson was on ESPN News earlier today. Gammons called him the greatest leadoff man in baseball history and it's difficult to argue.
Seldom has the game seen that kind of base stealing prowess and power. Henderson swiped a Major League record 1,406 bases in his career and blasted 297 career home runs. His single-season record of 130 stolen bases in 1982 and his career mark of 81 career leadoff home runs will probably never be touched.
But what set Rickey apart was the effortless way with which he would steal bases. It's been commented that Henderson was lucky, because of how many times how broke when the pitcher threw a breaking ball. That was just Rickey being Rickey. The guy could read pitchers, catchers and situations better than anyone has in the history of baseball.
I remembering mimicking him when I was a kid playing Little League. Who better? If there was anyone to ever study on stealing bases, hew was the guy. Yes, Rickey had the blazing speed early in his career, but you can't steal 1,400 bases on speed alone. Rickey made it happen on instinct and craftiness and there are few ball players of my generation more deserving of being in the Hall of Fame.