On This Date in Sports August 27, 1982

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Rickey Henderson holds up second base after breaking the single season record.

Rickey Henderson holds up second base after breaking the single season record.

Rickey Henderson of the Oakland Athletics sets the single season base stealing record by swiping his 119th base at County Stadium against the Milwaukee Brewers. The previous record of 118 stolen bases was set by Lou Brock in 1974. Henderson would steal four bases in the game to increase the record to 122 as the Brewers beat Rickey’s A’s 5-4. Rickey Henderson would finish the season with 130 steals.

Born on Christmas Day in 1958, Rickey Henderson was raised in Oakland. He made his major league debut with his home town team in 1979. That season in he stole 33 bases in 89 games giving fans a preview of what was to come. One year later, Billy Martin took over as manager of the Athletics and encouraged an aggressive brand of baseball. That would give Rickey Henderson freedom to run, as he led the American League with 100 steals. Henderson again led the American League in 1981, stealing 56 in a season interrupted by a two-month strike.

It was clear early in the 1982 season, that Rickey Henderson was targeting Lou Brock’s single season record. Stealing early and often, Rickey Henderson had swiped 84 bases by the All-Star Break. Henderson known for showboating in the outfield became one of the most infuriating players to face when he came to plate. Using an extreme crouch, Henderson was just as likely to reach base with a walk than a hit. With the amount of bases Rickey was stealing it was like walking a double of a triple. The record breaking swipe came against veteran pitcher Doc Medich in the third inning after walking. Rickey Henderson would finish the season with 130 stolen bases, which was more team total of nine of the 13 other American League teams.

Rickey Henderson would steal 108 bases in 1983 as he led the American League in stolen bases 10 times in 11 seasons. The lone season in which he failed to lead the league was in 1987 when he missed a large chunk of the second half due to injuries while playing with the New York Yankees. That season he stole 41 bases and lost the crown to Harold Reynolds of the Seattle Mariners.

In 1991, Rickey Henderson, who had returned to Oakland in 1989 became the all-time stolen base leader by swiping the 939th base of his career. Rickey Henderson would end up playing 25 years in the majors. By the time his career ended the stolen base was no longer in vogue as the steroid era had placed extra importance on the home run, making teams discourage taking too many chances on the bases. Still, Rickey Henderson continued to add to his record, and when his career ended in 2003 he finished with 1,406 steals. Nearly 500 more than Brock who still ranks second all-time.