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08/02/09 2:20 PM ET
Rickey delivers flair as number is retired
Hall of Famer energizes crowd prior to A's game Saturday
By Adam Loberstein / MLB.com
OAKLAND -- Rickey Henderson knows how to make an entrance. Six days after being inducted into the Hall of Fame, Henderson walked onto the playing field at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum through the center-field wall to begin the ceremony that would retire his No. 24 on Saturday. Baseball's all-time leader in steals, runs, leadoff home runs and unintentional walks then began his stroll down the red carpet, which stretched from the warning track to second base. Fireworks were launched from four outfield pads. Henderson was greeted by current A's as he started the walk. He joined his former teammates to end it, finding a gold-plated base on second. Henderson hoisted the bag into the air, and a sellout crowd of 35,067 -- already on its feet -- went nuts. "Rick-ey! Rick-ey! Rick-ey!" Henderson and his former mates took their seats around the podium in front of the pitcher's mound. Former A's catcher and current broadcaster Ray Fosse, serving as the master of ceremonies, announced that Saturday wasn't just Rickey Henderson Day; it was the start of Rickey Henderson Month, as the City of Oakland had decided to celebrate all of August in Henderson's honor. Dave Stewart, who guided Oakland to a World Series title in 1989 alongside Henderson, then took center stage to talk about his best friend. "When you speak about Major League players or Hall of Fame players," Stewart said, "people get caught up in the muscle. ... Rickey is one of the greatest players ever to me because he had an impact in any game he ever played. "He's a player Major League history will never forget. His records will never be broken. There will never be another Rickey Henderson." The fans agreed. "Rick-ey! Rick-ey! Rick-ey!" Jason Giambi emerged from the Oakland dugout to present Henderson with a one-of-a-kind trophy commemorating the ceremony. Rene Lachemann and Tony Phillips revealed a framed No. 24 jersey in honor of its retirement. It was then time for that jersey to become a part of history. Fosse directed the crowd's attention toward the left-field wall, where Henderson's daughters were ready to unveil his jersey just beside the 330-foot sign. "Ladies and gentlemen," Fosse said, "it is my honor to officially retire No. 24." Number revealed. More fireworks. Streamers fly through the air. "Rick-ey! Rick-ey! Rick-ey!" Rickey answered. He took the podium and thanked everyone -- his family, his teammates, his manager and the City of Oakland, among others. "Most of all," Henderson said, "thanks to you, the fans. This is not just my day. This is you, the fans' day. ... You have shouted out, 'Run, Rickey. Run.' I need your help. Say it one more time." Rickey didn't need to ask twice. "Run, Rickey! Run!" ... "Run, Rickey! Run!" ... "Run, Rickey! Run!" "It was you that helped me run into the Baseball Hall of Fame," Henderson continued. "Now my number has been retired. I thank you for being here with me today. Rickey concluded his speech in Rickey fashion, sharing what he called "a little Rickey-ism" with his fans. "Rickey has tears in his eyes," he said. "Rickey has love in his heart for you. Rickey is so very, very, very humble. "Thanks again for making this such a special thing. This is not Rickey Henderson Day. This is also Oakland A's Fans' Day. Thank you very, very much."
Adam Loberstein is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.