Rickey Henderson is preparing his HOF speech

Don't put it past Rickey Henderson to use his Hall of Fame acceptance speech to slip in a mention that he'd still like to play. Maybe a team out there could use a few stolen bases, a guy who can go from first to third and possibly even belt a home run a few innings later.

Never mind that he's 50 and no team would entertain the idea. Henderson played in independent leagues until he was 46. He'll say he can still play when he's 86.

Although at this point it's less about playing than playing along.

"If somebody called and they gave me a little time to get in shape, I would love to do it," Henderson said. "I don't think I would ever say I wouldn't want to play baseball. That's just how much I love the game."

Henderson was elected to the Hall of Fame in January. Close to 95 percent of voters marked off the box next to the 10-time All-Star's name. That's Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Hank Aaron territory.

Despite the landslide election, Henderson can't embrace a lifestyle of weekly autograph shows and an occasional old-timers' game.

"As far as the shape, the health, the ability to go out and compete, yes, I think I can do that," said Henderson, whose 25-year career ended in 2003. "If I'm not broke, I don't have no injuries, I can walk, I will always want to go and play baseball."

Icons have their own way of saying goodbye. Brett Favre cried. Richard Nixon was defiant. Bobby Fischer just disappeared. There's no telling how Henderson will respond, although the day is coming and he knows it. His induction ceremony will be July 26, but he might make a farewell speech before then.

"I think Oakland is going to bring me back to their ballpark to retire the jersey and stuff," he said. "I think that maybe will be my farewell, that I'm officially retired."

Henderson broke in with the Oakland A's in 1979, was traded to the New York Yankees after the 1984 season and traded back to Oakland during the 1989 season. Eventually he played for nine teams, but Oakland was always home. His last stint with the A's came in 1998 when, at age 39, he had 66 stolen bases and scored 101 runs.

Henderson said that when he does say goodbye, he'll talk about the people closest to him. He's started crafting his speech, but the best Rickey moments are often nonscripted.

"I want to thank all those who know me, those who helped me get to where I got," he said. "I definitely want to give credit to all the people from early in my career."

"I think it will be a bit like him, entertaining, family-oriented, appreciative and retrospective with some humor," said Henderson's longtime friend Mike Weiss, who also serves as the former outfielder's marketing and memorabilia agent.

After his Hall of Fame induction speech, Henderson will stand near his bronze plaque. If he had his say, the plaque would be etched with words that express his passion for the game.

"I would want it to say that I loved the game, played hard, played with integrity, gave my soul to the game," he said. "It would say I went out there and played the game the right way."

What about the 1,406 stolen bases, 3,055 hits, 2,295 runs and 2,190 walks?

"People know my stats, they can look them up on the Internet if they want," Henderson said with a laugh. "I would want it to be about how I played the game."

When Henderson reached base, opposing pitchers and catchers began to sweat. He'd crouch, dangle his fingers in the dirt and use his right leg to launch himself toward the next base. Like a wrestler setting up an opponent before his finishing move, that was Henderson's here-I-come moment.

Henderson loved the game so much he played three years in independent leagues just for another shot at the majors. In his mind, he was still better than most bench players half his age. Thirty major league front offices disagreed.

Of Henderson's records, the stolen base and runs marks are dearest to him. He's nearly 1,000 stolen bases ahead of any active player, but Alex Rodriguez could catch him in runs. Rodriguez needs 690 and has scored at least 100 in 13 consecutive seasons.

Henderson wouldn't say whether he'd be upset to lose the record to Rodriguez, who recently admitted to using steroids. Instead, he referred to a different record he lost to a player accused of using performance-enhancing drugs.

"Barry [Bonds] broke one of my records, the walks one, and I was happy for him when he did it," said Henderson, who believes Major League Baseball officials knew players were taking steroids but did nothing to stop it.

Henderson isn't likely to bring up steroids in his Hall acceptance speech. Fans will want Rickey to be Rickey that day, and he plans to oblige.

And if he does play again, he'll get to do it all over.

Scott Stanchak has covered New York sports teams for over nine years. Visit