Spring training started for real earlier this week, and the games will start for pseudo-real this coming weekend.
Which means that, if this was twenty years ago, the greatest lead-off man of all time, Rickey Henderson, would show up in a couple of weeks or so.
Because that's just the way it was for the guy who once said, amongst many, many other things, when teammate Billy Beane*, who shared a locker next to him, came back up to the big-leagues after six weeks in the minors:
'Hey, man. Where have you been? Haven't seen you for awhile.'
I have not hollered many things from the bleachers of any stadium anywhere that I have ever really regretted, but in the summer of 1994, after the Oakland A's moved their other aging Henderson (Dave), Rickey lost a ball in the Alameda County Coliseum fog-sun in the late innings of a mean-nothing Saturday afternoon game in barely-still August.
So, sitting in the cheapseats just above the wall in left field, I hollered down...
"Hey, Rickey!....They traded the wrong Henderson!"
Of course, I was full of hotdogs and beer-induced huff-puffery when I hollered it.
And it turns out I was wrong.
Very, very very wrong.
Because after that, Rickey, who was already 35, just kept on going and going and going.
And he kept popping up in various teams' playoff runs.
Like with the Mets in 1999.
And now, in reference to that 1999 season, Henderson has popped-up again, this time in pages of Mike Piazza's just-released book wherein the former Mets slugger has something very, very cool to say about Rickey's performance at the team's 'play-off share' meeting the following spring.
Now, before, I get to Piazza's quote, just in case there are a few among you out there who don't give a hoot-in-heckfire about this kind of stuff, let me explain this play-off 'share' thing...
These 'shares', which can be cut-up and doled-out, piecemeal, to part-time players and various assorted other sundry hangers on, are given to teams that make the play-offs based on ticket sales. Back in the old days, like when the White Sox threw the 1919 Series, a single full-share for the winning team was about $5,000, which sounds like peanuts, but back then it was not, for all kinds of reasons that had more to do with the reserve clause than inflation.
Anyway, when the Mets lost in the National League finals in the fall of 1999, a full share was worth about $100,000, which was a lot, but not that much to the free agents stars, including Rickey, who was rumoured to have once framed (i.e. not cashed) a million dollar bonus cheque for posterity.
You got all that...
Here's the quote from Piazza's book based on what went on at the next year's spring training meeting when the team got together to divvy-up the previous fall's shares....
"Rickey was the most generous guy I ever played with, and whenever the discussion came around to what we should give one of the fringe people - whether it was a minor leaguer who came up for a few days or the parking lot attendant - Rickey would shout out, 'Full share!' We'd argue for awhile and he'd say, 'F*ck that! You can change somebody's life!"
I've changed my mind.
The A's should have kept BOTH Hendersons.
*Mr. Beane later morphed into Brad Pitt in Moneyball....Unlike Rickey, the former utility man just may stay with the A's forever...