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Henderson sets steal record

By
WILLIAM D. MURRAY UPI Sports Writer

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Rickey Henderson, thrusting his arms to the sky, felt 50 pounds -- and one bottle of Dom Perignon -- lighter.

Proclaiming himself 'the greatest' moments after breaking his tie with Lou Brock for the all-time career stolen base record, Henderson said he would open a bottle of champagne he has owned since 1976.

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Henderson, who had been thrown out by New York catcher Matt Nokes attempting to steal second in the first inning, reached base in the fourth when shortstop Alvaro Espinoza let a grounder roll between his legs. He moved to second on a Dave Henderson single and, one out later, broke for third on a 1-0 fastball from starter Tim Leary to Harold Baines to break the record Brock held for 12 years.

He was safe by a large margin for stolen base No. 939, bringing the 30,000-plus fans to their feet and his mother, Bobbie, and Brock out of the stands.

'I said to myself 'it's over,'' said Henderson. 'A lot of pressure left. I felt 50 pounds lighter because I was carrying so much pressure. I was tossing and turning all night. I was waking up early in the morning. May be now I can get a good sleep.'

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After a well-aged drink.

'I've got this bottle of Dom Perignon I got when I graduated from high school,' the Oakland native said. 'I think I'll pop it tonight.'

He has a new present to replace the bottle, anyway; the A's gave him a $75,000 Porsche.

Nokes, who tossed Henderson out on two other steal attempts on Wednesday, said he wasn't worried about how he'll be remembered.

'I know I'll be remembered as the catcher when Henderson broke the record,' he said. 'But it's just an honor to have had the opportunity. He's a competitor and exciting to play against.

'Henderson got a great jump when he went for the record steal. I don't think we would have gotten him anyway, even with a perfect throw.'

To the roar of the crowd, the base was removed and Brock proclaimed: 'Today, you are the greatest competitor that has ever run the bases in the big leagues.'

Then it was Henderson's turn to take the microphone. With his arm draped around his mother, Henderson thanked the fans and his family.

'I'd like to thank my mother, my family, my friends for all their support,' said Henderson, who had been thrown out four times this season, one less than all last year. 'I want to give my appreciation to Tom Trebelhorn (Milwaukee manager, Henderson's first minor-league manager) and Billy Martin. Billy was a good manager. I love you Billy and wish you were here to see this.'

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Finally, the future Hall of Famer proclaimed: 'Today, I'm the greatest of all time' before retaking his position at third.

The steal came at 1:52 p.m. PDT after Henderson's third at-bat. He went 1 for 4 and drew two walks on the afternoon. He also was thrown out twice.

Henderson entered the season needing only three steals to set the new mark but the speedy left fielder was surprised at how difficult it became to get those three elusive thefts.

'I've never had it tougher,' Henderson said. 'These had to be the toughest stolen bases of my career. I think it's the pressure you put on yourself.'

Henderson tied Hall of Famer Brock's record Sunday by stealing his 938th career base in the sixth inning of a 7-3 victory over the California Angels. He was hit by a Jeff Robinson pitch with one out in the inning and stole second on a 1-2 pitch to Lance Blankenship, easily beating the throw by catcher Lance Parrish.

The difficulty Henderson had in setting the mark became a running joke between himself and Brock, who became a frequent visitor to the Oakland Coliseum so he could be on hand when his record fell.

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'Lou told me its was going to be difficult to get those last two,' he said. 'I guess if I haven't broken it today, I'd flown him out Friday. If he couldn't make it then, I'd fly him out Saturday.'

Henderson, 32, broke the record in his 12th major-league season. Brock set the record in 18 years. Henderson said 1,200 stolen bases may be a realistic goal before the end of his career.

'I think 1,200 is realistic, if I'm able to play like I can now and stay healthy,' he said. ' ... I don't see this mark being broken unless I get hurt in the next month or the next year. I feel Vince Coleman is the next great basestealer but I think he can only get 900 or 1,000.'

The new stolen-base king had been bothered by a strained left calf muscle and was placed on the 15-day disabled list earlier this month.

'I'm at 80 percent' he said. 'There are times when your calf tightened up and you get worried that you are going to pull the muscle.'

Henderson set a major-leagues season record with 130 stolen bases in 1982. He broke Ty Cobb's AL record for career steals last season and has led the league in steals in 10 of the last 11 seasons.

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'It (breaking the record) has been on my mind for eight years,' he said. 'When I stole 130 in a season I felt I had a chance at this record.'

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