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14 April, 2011

Rickey Being Rickey

by Gus Ramsey

  For as much as those who love baseball love it for the history and the stats, we also love it for the stories.
I have been fortunate enough to know some baseball lifers and heard some really great tales through the years. Here is my favorite as told to me by Bobby Valentine.
  When Bobby was a 3rd base coach with the Mets they had some players who were not, let's say, adept at handling lengthy signal relays. So Bobby and his manager simplified the process for those players. For a bunt they would wipe their belt with their hand. Belt-B-Bunt. A hit and run would be a swipe of the knee. And a steal would be 3 claps.
  When Valentine was managing the '99 Mets, Rickey Henderson was one of those players who required a simplified signal process. During the season Henderson was closing in on Babe Ruth's all-time walk record of 2,062. Finally, at a home game at Shea Stadium, Rickey drew a walk to pass the Babe. The home crowd gave Rickey a prolonged ovation as the accomplishment was posted on the Diamond Vision. Rickey stood on 1st base, acknowledging the crowd by doffing his helmet and waiving to the Flushing faithful. It occurred to Valentine, that with all the commotion the pitcher may be distracted and it was a perfect time to have Rickey steal. Valentine gave 3rd base coach Cookie Rojas the steal sign. Rojas got Rickey's attention and gave him the simplified steal sign. Clap-clap-clap. Rickey looked back at Rojas and doffed his helmet.

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