|Thursday, April 24
Newark latest team to give Rickey a chance
NEW YORK -- Rickey Henderson wants another chance to reach the major leagues -- even if it means starting over on the lowest rung of the minors, playing with guys half his age and making only $3,000 a month.
The 44-year-old Henderson signed with the Newark Bears of the independent Atlantic League on Wednesday, hoping it will help him attract interest from the majors sometime during the season.
"Yeah, I was surprised," his manager, four-time NL batting champion Bill Madlock, said Thursday. "I was trying to figure out his reason for coming. Obviously, he has something he still wants to accomplish in the big leagues."
"But I'm excited he'll be here," he said. "He brings even more credibility to our team and our league."
Henderson is the big league record holder in runs scored, stolen bases and walks. His ascent to stardom took him through New Jersey a quarter-century ago, when he played for Jersey City in Oakland's farm system in 1978.
Henderson spent last season with the Boston Red Sox, mostly in left field. Widely considered the greatest leadoff man ever, he hit .223 with five home runs and 16 RBI in 72 games.
At the end of the season, the Red Sox gave him a car to honor him for his career.
"Obviously, he hasn't had enough," New York Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He obviously doesn't want to say goodbye. But that's his choice, anyway. I don't think anybody else should tell him when to quit."
"He's headed for the Hall of Fame, he's been on winners and he's done all these things," he said. But it's nice to see he still has the enthusiasm to do this stuff. I know one thing -- he'll draw some people. I'm happy for the fans."
Unable to find a job in the majors during the offseason, he decided to put on a new jersey in New Jersey and narrowed his choice to three teams in the Atlantic League: Newark, Camden and Somerset.
"He wants scouts to see that he can still make a contribution," said his agent, Jeff Borris.
"He was anxious to get start playing as soon as possible and the Atlantic League begins on May 1, earliest among the independent leagues," he said. "He picked Newark because he thought the Bears had the highest visibility."
Newark has had its share of big-name players, including Jose Canseco in 2001. League champions last season, the Bears signed former 20-game winner Jose Lima last week.
At one point in the winter, the Cincinnati Reds showed some interest. With the injury status of center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. still uncertain, perhaps there might be a chance to revisit a possibility with the Reds.
There had been talk Henderson might try to return to Oakland for a fifth stint with the Athletics, but they didn't want him.
"I don't know how long Rickey will be with us -- a month, two months, who knows?" Madlock said.
Madlock said he expected Henderson would join the team for workouts next week in Newark. The Bears open their season May 1 at home against Bridgeport, and the season runs through Sept. 14.
With Newark, Henderson will earn the league maximum of $3,000 per month. He played for $350,000 last season with the Red Sox.
Henderson has 3,040 hits while playing for eight major league teams. He has scored 2,288 runs, and his eight steals last year increased his total to 1,403.
Henderson also holds records for walks (2,179) and leadoff home runs (80). He needs five more home runs for 300, and that might be a goal motivating him.
A 10-time All-Star who played against Madlock in the 1983 showcase, Henderson was the 1990 AL MVP for Oakland. He won World Series championships with the A's in 1989 and the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993.