1980 Topps Rickey Henderson
Rickey deserves to be a little higher on this list based on the player he was on the field, but he has always been a little bit behind in the baseball card hobby. I think much of the lag on the Rickey Henderson card market has to do with the fact that he played for a ton of teams and he probably stuck around a few too many years. Still hard to deny a player was great when he ranks as the all-time leader for runs and stolen bases, while ranking in the top 5 walks and times on base. Rickey was great and never shied away from letting people know.
Rickey has always been a pretty important player to the baseball card hobby. I still remember trading away my Dwight Gooden rookie card away for the Henderson "gem" above. At some point a few years back I was able to pick up a copy that was slightly cleaner, but I still love the original Henderson rookie card in my collection. I have always liked Rickey Henderson, but have always been surprised at how few people actually collect his cards. He played for a whole mess of teams, but few people who are not A's fans, claim him.
Who remembers Rickey as a Blue Jay? I know Blue Jays fans, but none of them are Rickey fans....
A little bit harder. Mariners fans? I know a few and they don't claim Rickey. Nope.
Still he's an awesome player and a fun one to collect. There are a ton of Rickey cards floating around out there with tons of cool base cards and inserts. It doesn't matter your budget, for the most part, there is a Rickey Henderson card that fits into your collection. You should try to find it.
The only real limitation on Henderson cards during the past thirty years has been the availability of his certified autographs. Not that there are not any out there, but they have been limited in number and high in price for years. However, recently Henderson has been appearing in different card releases and has even been signing. The prices appear to be dropping off and I can see a Rickey Henderson card entering my collection in the near future. A Five Star or Tier One would look nice....
Henderson does have a good variety of nice relic pieces. There are cool patches and lots of other good relics that can be had in the neighborhood of $20 or less. It seems that there is a premium attached to some of the cards Henderson had in an Athletics uniform, but find a Red Sox jersey for the early 2000s and you will get a bargain. I picked up my favorite Henderson from Topps Marquee a few years ago.
While the market for Henderson cards seems to becoming back down to Earth a little bit, they are fun cards to collect. How cares if he's a Padre, or even that brief stop over with the Dodgers. Rickey was a great player and one of the few players whose cards span the early eighties all the way up to the modern cards released in the early 2000s. Of course, the cards companies have not stopped making Rickey cards so there are tons of them out there. Again, fun player to collect. Go track down a few.
On The Field-
Most people know Rickey Henderson has an arrogant base stealer who played for a ton of different teams. Really there was so much more to Henderson than speed. It irks me off when people try to compare Jacoby Ellsbury or Carl Crawford to Henderson. Worse yet are those who think that a player like Billy Hamilton, who might be able to steal 100 bases in a season, is anywhere close to Rickey.
Rickey was the greatest lead-off man ever because he not only stole bases, but he just got on base. His career on-base percentage was .401. He only led the league in OBP once, but had a total of 18 seasons (out of 25) where his percentage was over .400. In fact Henderson was on-base a total of 5,343 times ranking him 4th all-time behind Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, and Barry Bonds. He also hit a total of 297 home runs, most out of the lead off spot. Add all of that together with the fact that he's the only player to steal more than 1,000 bases and led the league in steals 12 times.
JAWS rates Rickey Henderson as the third best left fielder in MLB history behind Ted Williams and Barry Bonds. While his WAR of 110 puts him a ways behind those two it still puts him ahead of Carl Yastrzemski and Manny Ramirez. Ranking him by OPS+ hurts him a bit, but he still ranks in with players like Moises Alou and Jim Rice. Nice players, but they also did not steal over 1,000 bases.
I saw Henderson a few times at the end of his career with the Padres and Mets, and while his batting average seemed to have a hard time getting above .250, he still did a great job of getting on base. For example, in 1998 at the age of 29, Henderson led the American League in walks and steals.
Of course, Rickey is already in the Hall of Fame. No need to argue about that.
The 1991 Donruss Elite Rickey Henderson card was a pretty iconic card. If you had to own only one Rickey Henderson card you should look into this one. While you are going to pay a pretty nice penny for this card, you will own one of the marquee cards from the early 90s. Plus, you've got to love on Rickey Henderson card which features him wearing neon green batting gloves.