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Rickey Deserving of Two Retired Numbers

The Rickey Celebration continues this weekend with a couple of giveaways, and a uniform retirement ceremony.

But if the A's want to go out of their way for Rickey, and give him the special treatment he so richly deserves, how about something really unique?

Like say, retiring two numbers?

After all it was Bill James who uttered the famous line, "If you split Rickey Henderson in two, you get two Hall-of-Famers."

So why not retire both numbers he made famous?

Rickey wore Number 35 in his first stint with Oakland, from 1979-84, where he became the first player to steal 100 or more bases in three different seasons (1980, 1982-83), and shattered the single-season mark with 130 thefts in 1982.  Were it not for the players' strike in 1981, he may have gone over the century mark four years in a row (he had 56 in 109 games).

Rickey 1980

So the Hall-of-Fame career was already set in motion those first six seasons in Oakland, long before switching to the soon-to-be-retired 24.

Let's look at what Rickey did when wearing 35, as compared to the number that will join #27 (Hunter), #34 (Fingers), #9 (Jackson), and #43 (Eckersley) as the only ones to be retired in honor of former Oakland A's players.

#35: 791 games, .291 AVG, .400 OBP, 586 runs, 520 walks, 493 stolen bases 

#24: 913 games, .285 AVG, .416 OBP, 684 runs, 707 walks, 374 stolen bases

Below is a rundown of all the Major League uniforms- and numbers- worn by Rickey in his quarter-century on the diamond, with some fun facts tossed about for good measure. Of all the teams he played for, Rickey seemed to like his hometown colors the best:

ESPN: This is the eighth team you've played for. Which is the best-looking uniform you've worn?

Henderson: Oh, man. I'll have to go with the old green-and-gold with Oakland. I liked the style. I think, back in the day, Charlie Finley was more with the color and style. He was more creative. That's why he wanted the orange baseballs

Rickey actually broke in with the A's wearing Number 39, or at least that appears to be the case.  There are no records to confirm this; at least nothing I could find.  His first big-league hit came off John Henry Johnson, who had been traded by the A's to Texas just nine days before. 

The previous season Johnson was shipped across the Bay to Oakland with six other players; in return, the Giants received Vida Blue, who also wore multiple numbers with the A's, but had his best season- in 1971- wearing Number 35.

When Rickey stole his last three bases of that incredible '82 season, the opposing pitcher for the Kansas City Royals that day was...Vida Blue.

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Rickey's record-setting campaign was that he stole only eight bases after August 27, the night he surpassed Lou Brock.

Rickey Card - signed

Rickey was traded to New York for five players following the '84 season.  One of the players- Eric Plunk- was part of the package lured to bring Rickey back five years later.  When he arrived in the Big Apple, Number 35 was already taken by Phil Niekro. Rickey chose 24; the first time he'd wear the number immortalized by Willie Mays. 

When he returned to Oakland in 1989, Ron Hassey was wearing 24, and Bob Welch was wearing 35.  Rickey played a few games wearing 22, then Hassey switched to 27.

07- Rickey ALCS

He wore 14 for the 1993 Blue Jays before convincing Turner Ward to turn over his 24 to him.

He stayed with 24 from that year to the beginning of the 2000 season, even as he bounced around: Oakland (1994-95), San Diego (‘96-97), Anaheim ('97), Oakland ('98), and New York Mets ('99-00).  The "24" he wore for the Mets raised a few eyebrows, being that the number was unofficially retired by the team to honor Willie Mays.

Strangely, when he arrived in Seattle on ... he chose not to wear 24 even though it was available, with former user Ken Griffey Jr. having left the Mariners after the '99 season.  Maybe Rickey didn't feel right taking it, so he went back to 35.

After donning 24 once more for the 2001 Padres, Rickey returned to 35 with the Boston Red Sox in '02.  Some guy named Manny was wearing 24, and Rickey wasn't going to make waves:

I'm not going to pay for 24. I think I could have had 24, but I understand the man who's got it respected me and would have given it up, but I think he deserves it as much as me. So it doesn't bother me. I think I'm going to go with 35, my old number with Oakland. We'll see what happens.

Both 24 and 35 were available when he signed with the Dodgers for the 2003 season, but in true random Rickey style, the Hall-of-Famer-to-be went with Number 25, the last he's ever worn in the Majors.

Rickey 25

Next week: my trip to Cooperstown