Stealing Time

What makes Rickey Henderson run?

  1. One summer night not long ago, Rickey Henderson, the greatest base stealer and lead-off hitter in baseball history, stood in a dugout, pinching the front of his jersey and plucking it several inches from his chest--”peacocking,” as some players call it. He went through the same pregame rituals that he has performed since he was a rookie outfielder with the Oakland A's, in 1979. He sorted through a bunch of bats, asking, “Which one of you bad motherfuckers has got a hit on you?” Picking up one with resin on the handle, he cocked it back, waiting for an imaginary pitch, and talked to himself in the third person, the words running together so fast that they were nearly unintelligible: Let's-burn-Rickey-come-on-let's-burn.”

    Henderson is accustomed not only to beating his opponents but also to lording his abilities over them. As a 10-time All Star for the A's, the New York Yankees, and seven other teams, he stole more than 1,400 bases—a record that is considered untouchable, like Joe DiM...

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