COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Poor Jim Rice. While he eked into the Hall of Fame in his 15th and final year of eligibility, it is Rickey Henderson who is threatening to steal the spotlight in Sunday's induction ceremony.
Rickey being Rickey, some here are calling it one of the "most anticipated speeches" in the history of the Hall of Fame. Some even think it is the most anticipated speech.
Al Kaline simply smiled and shook his head Saturday afternoon when I asked him whether the Hall of Famers had been provided with translation booklets so they could understand what the always entertaining Henderson might say.
"He's a funny guy," offered Tony Perez. "Really, the way he talks. I just hope it's not too long."
"Everyone was talking about it last night," Hank Aaron said, chuckling.
As for Henderson, he didn't give much of a preview during a Saturday afternoon press conference, other than to say he would follow the suggestions of the Hall of Famers and keep it short and that it would include thank yous to those who have played an important part in his baseball development.
"My preparation for the speech is basically to not make a mistake and to not forget the people who helped you get to this point," he said.
As for his famous tendency to refer to himself as "Rickey", Henderson didn't do it at all in Saturday's news conference and suggested that that was overblown. Though, as he did, he referred to the fact that he rarely speaks of himself in the "third party." He did this multiple times (as opposed to referring to it correctly as the "third person.")
Rice did get off a terrific line himself, though, when someone asked each man to talk about something they appreciate in the other's game.
"I'm not going to say I appreciated Rickey," Rice said. "I hated Rickey. I called him 'Speedy.' I told (Boston pitchers) if he gets a base hit, he's going to steal second base, and then third, and if he gets a double, he's going to steal third.
"So the best thing you can do is hit him in the kneecap."
That elicited a roar from everyone, including Henderson.
Likes: Earl Weaver and Dick Williams sitting in lobby of Otesaga Hotel waiting for the golf tournament to come on television. ... Bob Gibson looks really good. Lean, healthy and he was even smiling on Friday night. ... The Saturday night gala they hold at the Hall Museum, complete with red-carpet arrivals featuring the Hall of Famers emerging from trolley cars, always is a highlight.
Dislikes: No Willie McCovey this year.