07/26/09 8:00 PM EST
Teammates show pride with Hall visit
Henderson recalls bond with Stewart; Yaz present for Rice
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Sometimes, the actions of former teammates speak loudest on Hall of Fame induction day.
They came out -- many of them did -- to see Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice get their ultimate moment of baseball glory on Sunday afternoon.
Henderson was a first-ballot inductee, and Rice made it on his 15th attempt.
Each year, there are a group of about 50 Hall of Famers who sit on the stage in support of the latest class of inductees. But this was the first trip to Cooperstown for Yaz since 2000, when he supported two former teammates in Carlton Fisk and Tony Perez.
Yastrzemski, legendary for his privacy, was not going to miss Rice's big day.
"[Yaz] told me last night -- he was in the room with his wife -- and he said, 'If you go longer than 12 minutes, I'm out of here.' I couldn't look behind me -- did he stay?" Rice asked the assembled media.
Yastrzemski did indeed stay for the entirety of Rice's speech. Then there was Stewart, a fierce big-game pitcher who estimates that his relationship with Henderson began at about "13 or 14."
The only time Stewart cringes when it comes to Henderson is when someone mentions that he was the best leadoff man of all-time. In Stewart's mind, Henderson's greatness extends far past the leadoff spot.
"In my opinion, he's one of the top five players [of all-time]," Stewart said.
During his speech, Henderson referred to Stewart as "my best friend and loyal friend."
Stewart thought Henderson conveyed his message perfectly.
"His personality came out," Stewart said. "He's entertaining. He's funny. That's the guy I played with and the guy I grew up with."
Though Rice and Dwight Evans didn't know each other as teenagers like Henderson and Stewart, they played together in the outfield at Fenway Park for 15 years.
Evans -- a three-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove Award winner -- wasn't going to miss Sunday for anything.
"It means a lot," said Evans. "I played with Tony Perez and Fisk, and I was here then. I'm here now. This is a tough place to get to, but I wouldn't miss it. I'm proud of him -- I'm proud of what he's accomplished. I saw him come up, and I saw him go and I saw the entire 16 years [Rice played]. I don't think anyone else can say that. I'm proud to be a part of this."
Dave Henderson, a postseason hero for both the Red Sox and A's, and a former teammate of the two new Hall of Famers, also came out to enjoy the day.
Several of the Hall of Famers on the stage played with Rice and/or Henderson, including Fisk, Dave Winfield, Dennis Eckersley, Wade Boggs and Paul Molitor.
While the fans on hand knew about the numbers that led to the enshrinement of the latest Hall of Famers, only the former teammates can vouch for the work that was done behind the scenes.
"He worked hard," Evans said of Rice. "He wanted to be a Carl Yastrzemski-caliber outfielder, and he worked hard for it. He was an exceptional outfielder."
"He's outstanding -- absolutely outstanding," Stewart said of Rickey Henderson.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.