Excerpt from the book "Rickey" about Rickey Henderson, a baseball legend

Howard Bryant, a sports writer, has published "Rickey" (Mariner), a biography about Rickey Henderson.

10 July 2022 Sunday 05:27
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Excerpt from the book "Rickey" about Rickey Henderson, a baseball legend

Howard Bryant, a sports writer, has published "Rickey" (Mariner), a biography about Rickey Henderson. He is the Hall of Famer and holder of the MLB records for stolen bases and runs. It tells how he changed the game forever.

Below is an excerpt:

One could argue that Rickey Henderson was meant to be a gift. All the legends surrounding Christmas 1958 conspired to reveal that Rickey's birth on Christmas Day seemed preordained. According to one story, it snowed so hard in Chicago on Thursday night that getting to the hospital was difficult because of the heavy snowfall. Another story said Rickey was so unpredicted, so quiet in Bobbie Earl’s belly, and not yet ready for the world, that neither his father John Henley nor she had any reason to believe he would give birth to a Christmas child. Although the details may not be true, they were accurate in their own ways. Rickey was on his schedule and, as would be a defining characteristic for over a quarter century of professional baseball, he was born with an element of surprise. He was capable of turning calm into chaos, always one step ahead of the world.

Bobbie didn't make it to the hospital in time to give Rickey. It was also true that it was Christmas, but there wasn't a blizzard. It didn't snow that week, and by the weekend, the weather reports had reported temperatures in the 50s. Rickey didn't take Bobbie by surprise. She knew that her boy was coming. She knew Rickey from the beginning, better than Rickey himself. This was true even before Rickey gave her a name. The most important fact was, obviously, that Bobbie Earl, then just 19, gave birth on Christmas night 1958 to Rickey Nelson. Henley introduced himself instantly with irresistible charm.

Rickey's birth was a chaotic story that served everyone. It was a clean, well-written story that was fitting for the man who would be the greatest opening act of baseball history.

The retellings of that night have been retold several times. It was reminiscent of a funny sitcom with all the characters trying to figure out how everything ends. Intimidation was evident in his birth certificate. A friend said that it stated his name as Boy Henley, a placeholder that almost never makes it into official paperwork. Bobbie gave Rickey, the Christmas child born in a car to Bobbie, an extra sprinkle of Hollywood magic by naming him after Ricky Nelson, a 1950s teenage heartthrob and clean-cut white boy with a guitar.

Rickey was a unique individual with a great story and an extraordinary personality. He would tell everyone that he was unique in later years. You know who else can boast about the day they were born. Rickey was born Christmas Day! He would say it when he made a grand entrance to the clubhouse. But in quiet moments, under the right lighting, he could tell his story at ground level without any gritless predestination. His tale was not so sweet and wasn't quite family-friendly.

Excerpted form the book "Rickey" by Howard Bryant. Copyright (c), 2022 Howard Bryant Mariner Books is an imprint HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted with permission.

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