Rickey Henderson sped his way into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot Monday, and Jim Rice made it in on his 15th and final try.
Henderson, baseball's career leader in runs scored and stolen
bases, received 94.8 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers'
Association of America, well above the 75 percent needed.
Rice, among baseball's most feared hitters in the late 1970s and
early 1980s, got 76.4 percent of the vote after falling just shy
with 72.2 percent last year.
"The only thing I can say is I'm glad it's over with," Rice
said. "I'm in there and they can't take it away."
The undisputed standard for leadoff hitters, Henderson 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 will 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," said
Henderson, who wanted to be a football star before excelling in pro
baseball. "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.
Next up, his highly anticipated induction speech. Henderson has
always had a unique way with words.
"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."
Rice knows exactly how he'll approach his speech.
"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," he said. "I'm going to leave all the stories
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 - the highest
percentage for a player who wasn't elected in a later year was 63.4
by Gil Hodges in 1983, his final time on the ballot.
Some thought Rice's prickly personality and curt relationship
with reporters during his playing career helped keep him out of the
Hall all these 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 to the last out," Rice said. "I guess
everything was just timing, because my numbers have not changed
over the last 14 years."
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 (21.9 percent) in
his third year of eligibility, down from the 128 votes he got in
each of his first two tries.
Henderson, who played with McGwire in Oakland, said the slugger
was one of the best people he's ever been around.
"He played the game the right way to me," Henderson said. "I
feel he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame."
Henderson, the 1990 AL MVP, was a 10-time All-Star who swiped
1,406 bases, one shy of 50 percent more than Lou Brock, who is in
second place with 938. Henderson batted .279 with 297 homers, 1,115
RBIs, 2,190 walks and 2,295 runs. He owns the modern-day season
record with 130 steals in 1982, and the career mark with 81 leadoff
homers. He played 25 seasons for Oakland, the Yankees, Toronto, San
Diego, Anaheim, the Mets, Seattle, Boston and the Dodgers.
Henderson was with his family when he got the call Monday and
pointed out that they have been with him through "all the glory
and the headaches."
"They enjoyed it probably as much as I enjoyed it, probably
even more," he said.
Rice, the 1978 AL MVP, was an eight-time All-Star who hit 382
home runs in 16 seasons with the Boston Red Sox from 1974-89. He
had a .298 career batting average and 1,451 RBIs, and from 1977-79
averaged .320 with 41 homers and 128 RBIs.
He becomes the fourth Hall of Famer to have spent his entire
career with the Red Sox, joining fellow left fielders Ted Williams
and Carl Yastrzemski, along with second baseman Bobby Doerr.
"That's I think one of the biggest accomplishments," Rice