As I said last week, I'm launching today an offseason Sunday theme: The Sunday Funnies, amusing baseball stories, some of which may actually be true. I'm less concerned with accuracy than the story, frankly.
One could probably do a winter's worth of these posts just with Rickey Henderson stories. I'm going to limit myself to one a month, but Rickey will lead off here, just as he did in real life.
Henderson is playing for future major league manager Tom Trebelhorn in the lower rungs of the A's farm system, and the manager sits down with the young outfielder to explain what they want from him. You're going to run on your own, Trebelhorn tells Henderson. We want you to learn to steal bases, and you're going to learn faster if I'm not telling you when to go. So I won't be giving you signals.
A few days later Henderson comes back to Treblehorn. Man, you're giving everybody else signals, you're not giving me signals, I feel left out. Trebelhorn again explains why he's not giving Henderson signals, but Rickey's adamant -- I want to be treated like everyone else. Give me signals.
So Trebelhorn goes through his signs. This is the steal, this is the bunt, this is the hit-and-run, this is the squeeze -- and if I wipe the letters on my shirt, that's the take-off sign. It takes off whatever play I just called. Got it? Got it.
Game starts. Henderson gets on base. Treblehorn, coaching at third because that's what minor league managers do, gives Henderson the steal sign, followed by the takeoff sign -- he wants to teach the kid a lesson by depriving him of steal opportunities -- and Henderson promptly steals second.
Treblehorn gives Rickey every sign -- steal, hit and run, bunt, even the suicide squeeze -- and follows each with the takeoff sign. Henderson steals third on the next pitch.
Treblehorn puts his arm around Henderson as the runner dusts himself off. Rickey, that was beautiful, that's exactly the way we want you to steal bases -- but didn't you see me give the takeoff sign?
"Sure," says Henderson, "and I took off for second, and I took off for third."