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What Is RICKEY HENDERSON Doing in NEWARK?
Tom Verducci
June 23, 2003
The greatest leadoff hitter of all time is beating the bushes, trying to get back to the majors—and still leaving 'em laughing at every stop
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June 23, 2003

What Is Rickey Henderson Doing In Newark?

The greatest leadoff hitter of all time is beating the bushes, trying to get back to the majors—and still leaving 'em laughing at every stop

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1. Run three to five miles every other day. "Some guys, once the season starts, they relax, eat, do nothing. I feel sluggish that way. I got to get up and do something, get the blood back circulating and get the oxygen back in my body."

2. Do 200 sit-ups and 100 push-ups a day. "I don't do a lot of weights. Some guys, they want to be Hulk Hogan. Not me."

3. Stretch before bedtime. "Do your stretching before you sleep. That way you wake up loose."

4. Eat plenty of ice cream. "I like to eat ice cream at night. I got to have something sweet before I go to sleep."

Late one night, after a game in New York, Henderson ordered room service, but the order wound up going to Bochy's room.

"I couldn't believe it," the manager says. "A huge bowl of ice cream and a big slab of cheesecake with sauce on it. I'm thinking, Where does it go?"

Henderson led the league in stolen bases at age 39, the oldest player to do so, with 66. (The Florida Marlins' two-time stolen base champ Luis Castillo, 27, has never had that many in a season.) When Rickey was 40, his on-base percentage was .423. He has played 24 big league seasons; no outfielder has played more. At 44, according to Bears teammate Mike Piercy, 26, "his flexibility is amazing. I'd get hurt if I tried to stretch like him. He's like Bruce Lee. I grew up idolizing him. And he doesn't look any different now."

Henderson's durability is remarkable considering the pounding his body has taken from his baserunning and hundreds of headfirst slides using a technique borrowed from...commercial airliners.

"It was really like a dream," he says. "I learned that the more closer to the ground [you are], the less pounding you take. We were going to Kansas City in an airplane, and we came in and bounced. Boom, boom, boom. Then we left there, came in I don't know where, and the plane came in smooth. I thought [the pilot] got lower to the ground, and that's how I developed my slide. I started to see how low I could get to the ground."

Tony La Russa managed Henderson for parts of seven seasons in Oakland. He reached an agreement with Rickey: Henderson would tell him directly, rather than through the trainers, when he needed a day off.

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