Rickey Henderson

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Rickey Henderson.

It was a foregone conclusion. Rickey Henderson, baseball's greatest leadoff hitter ever, was elected into the Hall of Fame on Jan. 12 on his first ballot with 94.8 percent of the total vote. The sport's all-time leader in stolen bases and runs scored, Henderson is as well known for his oversized ego and his tendency to refer to himself in the third person as for his undeniable talent. He will be formally inducted into the Hall in Cooperstown, N.Y. on July 26. (See TIME's Top 10 Sports Moments of 2008.)

Fast Facts:

• Is 50 years old, and played major league baseball for almost a quarter century.

• Leads the sport in stolen bases (1,406), by almost fifty percent more than the second-best base stealer, former Cardinal Lou Brock (938). Leads the sport in runs scored (2,295) and leadoff homers (81), and has the second-most walks ever (2,190). Holds the record for most bases stolen in a single season (130 in 1982).

• He started with the Oakland A's in 1979 (and still holds his greatest loyalty for the team — he left and came back three separate times). Over the next 20 or so years, he played for the New York Yankees, the Toronto Blue Jays, the San Diego Padres, the Anaheim Angels, the New York Mets, the Seattle Mariners, the Boston Red Sox, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Was a 10-time All-Star and the 1990 American League MVP.

• Broke the stolen base record on May 1, 1991. In a speech to the crowd, Henderson declared himself "the greatest of all-time," a comment that further solidified his reputation for arrogance.

• After his last major league stint with the Dodgers in 2003, Henderson couldn't give up the sport. He went to play for the minor league Newark Bears in an attempt to prove that he was still a viable player. He then played for the even more minor San Diego Surf Dawgs, which, a team publicist admitted to The New Yorker was often assumed to be a girl's softball team.

• Is known for referring to himself — often — in the third person. The quotes are endless. A sampling: "Rickey don't like it when Rickey can't find Rickey's limo"; "This is Rickey calling on behalf of Rickey. Rickey wants to play baseball"; "Rickey got a big ranch. Rickey got a big bull. Rickey got horses. Rickey got chickens and everything. And Rickey got a 20-gallon hat." The list goes on.

• Finally retired from playing in 2007, when he went to work as a first-base coach for the New York Mets.

Quotes By:

• "I'm really just spaced out...I haven't really thought about what I'm going to say."
— The normally verbose Henderson, on being inducted into the Hall of Fame, Associated Press, Jan. 12, 2009

• "They kept that s--- a secret from me...I wish they had told me. My God, could you imagine Rickey on 'roids? Oh, baby, look out!"
— Denying using steroids during his career, The New Yorker, Sept. 12, 2005

• "People always ask me why I still want to play, but I want to know why no one will give me an opportunity. It's like they put a stamp on me: 'Hall of Fame. You're done. That's it.' It's a goddamn shame."
— On his inability to make it back into the major league because, as he suspected, most people took it for granted that would make it into the Hall of Fame one day, The New Yorker, Sept. 12, 2005

• "The only thing I wish I could figure out is how I got misunderstood regarding the type of person I really am and what I accomplished...Just because I believed in what I was doing on the field and dedicated myself to playing the game, does that mean I'm cocky? Does that mean I'm arrogant? People who played against me called me cocky, but my teammates didn't. I brought attention, fear. I wanted to beat you in the worst way. If that made me cocky, so be it."
— On his reputation, Baseball Digest, Feb. 2003

• "Muhammad Ali was my idol, and in one of his phrases he said, 'I'm the greatest.' So I said, If I ever break the record, I want to say 'I'm the greatest' out of respect for Muhammad Ali. It had nothing to do with baseball."
— On his famous utterance on breaking the stolen base record, Baseball Digest, Feb. 2003

Quotes About:

• "He's the greatest leadoff hitter of all-time. And I'm not sure that there's a close second."
— Billy Beane, Oakland A's general manager, on his former teammate (they played together on the '89 championship team), MLB.com, Jan. 12, 2009

• "And the Rickey Rally — a walk, two stolen bases and a sacrifice fly — was purist baseball at its best. Scoring runs, after all, is baseball's bottom line, and no one's better at it than Rickey."
— Allen St. John, sportswriter, Salon.com Oct. 9, 2001

• "Smaller than Hitler's heart."
— Jim Murray, sportswriter, on Henderson's barely-there strike zone, Sports Illustrated, April 21, 1986

• "Without exaggerating one inch, you could find fifty Hall of Famers who, all taken together, don't own as many records."
— Bill James, baseball statistician, on Henderson's laundry list of accolades, The New Yorker, Sept. 12, 2005

See TIME's Top 10 Sports Moments of 2008.

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