Book Review: The Biographer Follows the Path of Baseball Great Rickey Henderson | Entertainment

By DREW GALLAGHER FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR

Rickey Henderson is one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He was also one of the most polarizing baseball players of all time. Journalist Howard Bryant tries to reconcile these two perceptions of the Hall of Fame in his biography “Rickey”. Bryant does a good job of cementing the fact that Henderson was probably the greatest first hitter in the history of the game, but where he’s less successful is in portraying Rickey as a person.

Biographies of the living are always interesting because a reader often wonders what access the subject grants to the biographer and whether that access comes at a price that prohibits certain aspects of life being discussed. Bryant alludes to Henderson as a womanizer with throwaway lines that imply that Henderson not only had a good eye at bat, but also an eye for the ladies, but this plotline is never developed. Likewise, Henderson’s family life is touched on in a limited way, and there is no mention of him as a father until it is revealed well into his career that he has three daughters.

Honestly, no one is really interested in Henderson’s personal life, although Bryant presents his lifelong girlfriend as the mainstay that allowed Rickey to be Rickey. But when a biography touches on personal life, it should be fleshed out to a greater extent unless, of course, Rickey wants no mention of his personal life. Much like Rickey controlled a baseball game from the bases (his 1,406 career stolen bases probably won’t be surpassed), it feels like Rickey had a lot of control over this biography.

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Those petty grievances aside, the sports biographies are made interesting by anecdotes told by teammates, coaches and opponents, and “Rickey” has plenty of them. Some of the best quotes, unfortunately, can’t be shared in a family journal because the praise and profanity of former baseball players goes unfiltered (I’m looking at you, Dennis Eckersley), but many of Rickey’s on-field exploits baseball needed more colorful language. Opposing players and old-school reporters despised his theatrics and penchant for talking about him in the third person, but his teammates loved him and the playoff appearances that almost always followed Rickey’s arrival with a new club. .

Rickey could definitely elevate his game at the moment (he played and continued to steal bases well into his 40s), but it was Yankees hitting coach Willie Horton who got Rickey’s game going. from a simple speed game to an all-around hitter with power in 1985. All Horton did 37 years ago was show Henderson a slight modification to his swing. Decades before the “pitch angle” became a baseball trend, Horton showed it to Henderson and paved the way for Cooperstown.

Drew Gallagher is a freelance writer and videobook reviewer at Spotsylvania.

Drew Gallagher is a freelance writer and videobook reviewer at Spotsylvania.

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