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Henderson's mouth matches Hall of Fame skills
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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y.It's tempting to recall Rickey Henderson as a walking contradiction, until, that is, you remember that Rickey preferred to run whenever and wherever possible. He was the player with the dirt-soiled uniform pants, inviting comparisons to a bygone era. Except that Rickey Henderson, who will be inducted into the Basebal Hall of Fame along with Jim Rice and Joe Gordon on Sunday, was thoroughly modern. He wasn't above proclaiming himself the greatest of all time, laid claim to a home run trot which nearly detoured him at times into the first base dugout, and, having begun his major league career after the advent of free agency, changed uniforms and teams with a casual ease. Henderson was in some ways a throwback, in other ways, he was ahead of his time. Though widely hailed as the game's greatest leadoff hitter ever, Henderson seemed to grasp the significance of getting on base via either hit or walk far before it became such a measuring tool for offensive excellence and an obsession of sorts for sabermetricians everywhere. A common baseball truism is that a player can't steal first base, but at times, Henderson seemed to have figured out a way to do just that. His career on-base percentage was a mind-blowing .401 and six times in his career, he compiled an OBP over .420. The last time it happened, in 1999, Henderson was 40, surely the modern equivalent of Ted Williams chasing a .400 batting average at 38 in 1957. Once on base, Henderson wasn't content to stay any one place for long. He holds both the single-season mark and career record for steals, and though it's impossible to predict the game's offensive cycles, both numbers could be unassailable. He also could flash occasional power he also holds the record for homers to lead off a game, thus filling out every box in the five-tool checklist. However, Henderson much preferred making his trip around the bases a scenic one, with periodic stops along the way to admire the scenery.