TONIGHT: If streaking Henderson can get on base, look for him to run

May 15, 1991|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Evening Sun Staff

It was 10 years ago that Johnny Oates nailed Rickey Henderson for the last time, but the Orioles' first base coach and former catcher remembers it as if it were yesterday.

In his final major-league season, Oates, then with the Yankees, threw out Henderson not once but twice. The first came with Tommy John on the mound at Yankee Stadium. The second was the second game of a doubleheader in Oakland when Henderson tried to steal third.

"He argued," Oates said, smiling. "It was close. A catcher gets that guy twice in one season and it feels pretty good. It takes three people -- the pitcher got me the ball and the infielder made a good tag."

Henderson is still plying his trade. Baseball's all-time stolen base leader (942) has an impressive streak against the Orioles, the team he intends to torment tonight in the second game of a three-game series.

Henderson has stolen 22 straight bases against the Orioles. The last time they caught him was June 13, 1986, when Rick Dempsey did the honors. Henderson failed to reach base in five trips in last night's 6-1 loss.

"He's successful not just because of his speed but because he reads pitchers so well and knows all their habits," Oates said. "He won't go unless he gets a good jump.

"I've seen him break and come back, because he felt he was a fraction off. He won't run unless he knows he has the base stolen. I bet more than half his caught stealings are pickoffs."

Oates is close on that one. Henderson, who overtook American League record-holder Ty Cobb (892) a year ago and passed former major-league leader Lou Brock (938) this season, stole 65 bases in 75 attempts last year. On five of those 10 failures he was picked off.

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