Henderson, Rice elected to Hall of Fame

COOPERSTOWN, NEW YORK (TICKER) —Rickey Henderson, the all-time leader in stolen bases and runs scored, and former Boston Red Sox slugger Jim Rice were voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday.

Considered a lock for induction, Henderson received 94.8 percent of the vote by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in his first year on the ballot.

He fell just short of the total garnered by recent first-time inductees Cal Ripken (98.5 percent) and Tony Gwynn (97.6) in 2007.

“It’s a great honor for me,” Henderson said in a conference call. “The Hall of Fame means a great deal to me. It’s a great accomplishment. (Getting in on the first ballot) is something I never thought of in my wildest dreams.”

Henderson, 50, and Rice, 55, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 26 along with former New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians second baseman Joe Gordon, who was elected by the veterans committee in December.

“Rickey Henderson’s first-ballot election into the Hall of Fame today is only fitting for the greatest leadoff hitter in baseball history,” Oakland Athletics owner Lew Wolff said. “We are proud that much of Rickey’s career was spent here in his hometown of Oakland, where he provided Bay Area fans with so many thrills as perhaps the most exciting player of his generation.”

While there was little doubt about Henderson, Rice finally surpassed the needed 75 percent for enshrinement in his 15th and final year of eligibility. He garnered 76.4 percent after falling just 16 votes short last season.

“I’m not going to bad mouth the writers - why it took so long to get in - because the numbers are the same,” said Rice, who often had a contentious relationship with the media. “Why did it take so long? I have no idea. Maybe they (the media) thought I was arrogant. That wasn’t true at all. I was very protective of the players I played with.”

Rice, who finished his career with a .298 average, 382 home runs and 1,451 RBI, joins Red Ruffing (1967) and Ralph Kiner (1975) as the only players inducted in their final year of eligibility.

“I got into trouble by not giving the media what they wanted and that was a big story,” Rice added.

Andre Dawson (67.0 percent) and Bert Blyleven (62.7 percent) were the only other players listed on more than half of the ballots.

Completing the top 10 were Lee Smith (44.5 percent), Jack Morris (44.0), Tommy John (31.6), Tim Raines (22.6), Mark McGwire (21.9) and Alan Trammel (17.4).

The first left fielder inducted since Carl Yastrzemski in 1989, Henderson played for nine different teams, including four stints in Oakland. He won World Series titles with the Athletics in 1989 and the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993.

Henderson, known for speaking in the third person, stole 1,406 stolen bases and scored 2,295 runs during a career that spanned 25 years. He also ranks second on the all-time walks list with 2,190, a mark surpassed only by Barry Bonds.

“His election is well-deserved,” said Willie Randolph, Henderson’s teammate with the New York Yankees and again in Oakland. “He was one of the best players I that ever played with and obviously the best leadoff hitter in baseball. We had a lot of fun pushing each other to play at higher levels.”

A 10-time All-Star and 1990 American League MVP, Henderson holds the single-season record for stolen bases, swiping 130 for the Athletics in 1982. He set another all-time mark with 81 home runs leading off games.

“Rickey was one of the most competitive players I’ve ever seen,” fellow Hall of Famer Dave Winfield said. “He was relentless. He could beat you with his legs and his bat, and he could beat you from the leadoff position, which was something people hadn’t seen before.”

Henderson received the 13th-highest vote total, finishing just behind Babe Ruth (95.1) and just ahead of Willie Mays (94.7).

Rice, who spent his entire 16-year career with the Red Sox, was perhaps the game’s most feared slugger in the 1970s. He is the only player in major league history to post three straight seasons with 35-plus home runs and 200-plus hits.

He led the AL in home runs three times, hit .300 or better on seven occasions and was selected to eight All-Star Games.

Rice was named the AL’s MVP in 1978, when the Red Sox lost a famous one-game playoff to the New York Yankees to decide the East Division title. That season, he batted .316 with 45 homers and 139 RBI.

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Updated Monday, Jan 12, 2009