Tag:Jim Rice
Posted on: July 25, 2009 7:18 pm

Rickey and the art of speech-making

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.

Posted on: January 12, 2009 2:16 pm

Rickey, Rice and immortality

No disrespect to Rickey Henderson, who is a first-ballot Hall of Famer in anybody's book, but the big story on Monday was the election of former Boston slugger Jim Rice into baseball's museum.

Everybody knew Henderson would be voted in, though I must admit, I thought his vote total was a little low. Henderson was named on 94.8 percent of the ballots. As for that other 5.2 percent who didn't vote for him, I'm not sure what game they were watching over the past 20 or so years. Henderson indisputably is the greatest, most versatile leadoff man in the game's history.

Rice eked in on his last year of eligibility on the ballot with 76.4 percent of the vote (players on the ballot need 75 percent for enshrinement). It's been a long, agonizing wait for Rice, but it doesn't matter now. Whether a guy gets elected to Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility, eighth or 15th, he's still a Hall of Famer.

I've thought Rice was a Hall of Famer ever since I first started voting 10 years ago, and I'm glad he's finally in. Maybe he wasn't brilliant over 20 years, but for the decade or so during which he was at his best, there's no question he was one of the most dominant players of his era. He was the 1978 American League Most Valuable Player, and he finished among the top five in AL MVP voting on five other occasions.

Whether others didn't vote for him because they viewed his Fenway Park numbers as skewed, whether they had run-ins with a player most people would put on the All-Jerk team or what, I'm not sure. But any way you cut it, Rice deserves to be in Cooperstown.

And now, come July, he will.

Category: MLB
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