NEW YORK – Rickey Henderson dashed into the Hall of Fame on his first try, Jim Rice made it with a final swing.
It’s hard to imagine their speeches will have much in common, either.
“I’m going to leave all the stories to Rickey,” Rice said, confirming that his remarks in Cooperstown this summer are likely to match his personality. “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.”
That never stopped Henderson – but neither did opposing pitchers or catchers during his 25-year career.
The undisputed standard for leadoff hitters, Henderson received 94.8 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in balloting announced Monday, well above the 75 percent needed.
Rice, among the game’s most feared sluggers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, got 76.4 percent in his 15th and final year on the ballot after falling just shy with 72.2 percent last year.
“The only thing I can say is I’m glad it’s over with,” the ex-Boston outfielder said. “I’m in there and they can’t take it away.”
Henderson, baseball’s career leader in runs scored and stolen bases, 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).
They will be inducted into the Hall during ceremonies July 26 in Cooperstown, N.Y. They’ll be joined by former Yankees and Indians second baseman Joe Gordon, elected posthumously by the Veterans Committee.
“I feel great about it. It’s been a long time coming,” Henderson said. “I was nervous, waiting.
“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.”
Henderson was picked on 511 of 539 ballots and Rice was on 412, just above the 405 needed.
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 has he learned?
“Be patient and wait until 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 first baseman was one of the best people he’s 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 A.L. MVP, was a 10-time All-Star who swiped 1,406 bases. He 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 for Oakland, the Yankees, Toronto, San Diego, Anaheim, the Mets, Seattle, Boston and the Dodgers.
Rice, the 1978 A.L. MVP, was an eight-time All-Star who hit 382 home runs in 16 seasons with the Red Sox from 1974-89. He had a .298 career batting average and 1,451 RBIs.
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