If you ask my mother, she'll tell you baseball cards helped my advancement in reading and math. I started collecting at three years old. By four years of age I was putting teams together, building whole sets, and crossing out checklists. At five years old I fell in love with a player on the Oakland A's named, Rickey Henderson.
I had no connection to the A's. Every single person in my family, to this day, are diehard New York Yankees fans. Something about Rickey caught my eye. Maybe it was the cool yellow pullover A's jersey with the bright green trim and clean white pants. It also could've been the awesome crouched stance he had. He did sign his name pretty nice too. I remember reading the back of his rookie card, I couldn't believe his birthday was on Christmas. At five years old that seemed like the coolest thing ever, imagining how many gifts you would get. Double up, double up! So now I'm obsessed with Rickey Henderson. My batting stance was Rickey. I wore my baseball pants high up to the knees, with long stirrups. My mother and uncles were baffled how I loved this player who played 3000 miles away.
As Rickey became one of the most exciting players in the league, I grew with him. I practiced his “snatch-catch” in Little League practice, hoping my coach didn't see. Lucky, I was always one of the best players on my team so I had a little leniency. I crouched low at bat. When I was on base, I would get down and I would wiggle my fingers like Rickey did before he was going to swipe a base. Mind you, my Little League team colors were yellow and green!
In 1985 my beloved Yankees traded for Rickey, I was beside myself. How in the world did the player I idolized now play for my team. At ten years old I didn't realize the power of the Yankees, and of course "The Boss", George Steinbrenner. I was blessed to attend many games as a kid. Thanks to my mother, I was able to see Rickey play in person countless times. I went to games early with her, making it for batting practice, hoping to see if I could meet him. No luck!
Summer of 1989, I was about 14, my mother called me into the room and ordered me to sit down. I thought I was in a bit of trouble until a smile came across her face. She said, “I sent a letter to Rickey Henderson's Fan Club, and his business manager sent a letter back to us.” I was thrilled, but that was nothing! My mom pulls out two VIP passes, we we're going to meet Rickey during the off-season in New York City! I lost it. I must have did ten flips, slid across the floor, you name it. I was finally going to meet my idol, I looked forward to it all summer.
I was still hurt he left the Yankees, but I was happy he was able to win his first World Series with the A's. If you didn't know, there was a terrible earthquake prior to Game 3. Rickey lived out in the Bay Area. When the season was over, due to the effects of the earthquake, Rickey never flew out to NY to meet us. I couldn't believe it. I was bent out of shape.
A few weeks after we were originally scheduled to meet, I received a package in the mail. It contained three signed autographs of Rickey, and a signed baseball. All of which I still have today. I followed Rickey's career to the very end, and truly proud my favorite baseball player who I found on a baseball card at five years old, would become the greatest leadoff hitter of all-time and a Hall Of Famer!
The reason I'm telling this story on Never Follow Trends is Rickey Henderson was the ultimate trendsetter. He never followed, he did things his way. It was Rickey being Rickey. Do you know, on occasion, when Rickey hit a HR, he would pop his collar, then make a huge turn, almost reaching the dugout before he headed around first base. Hip-Hop artist E-40, known for poppin' his collar, got this from Rickey! Rickey set trends. He also had one of the best bat-flips ever. A lot of players of today are very flamboyant, but Rickey was doing snatch-catches in live games in the early 80s! He was chiseled, his thighs were like Bo Jackson. He stole 130 bases in one year. Can you imagine that! Rickey had gold rope chains, and a jheri curl. If Rickey was on your team, you loved him, if you played against him, you hated him. That relates to business as well, and life in general. Rickey Henderson will go down as one of the greatest baseball players of all-time, as well as one of sports most trendsetting athletes.
“If my uniform doesn't get dirty, I haven't done anything in the baseball game.” - Rickey Henderson
This relates to all business. Word smarter, harder, then everyone else.
Thank you Rickey, set trends, never follow them!