Half a record is better than nothing, and that's what Rickey Henderson of the Oakland A's settled for tonight. He had hoped to break Lou Brock's single season stolen base record of 118, but he only tied it against the Milwaukee Brewers, who took a 10-3 victory on two home runs by Gorman Thomas and two doubles and a triple by Robin Yount.
"How'm I gonna talk about a base when we got killed?" Henderson said afterward as he walked into an interview room crowded with reporters.
Still, it was obvious he was proud of what he did in the first inning, when he led off the game with a single to center, then turned a pickoff throw by Mike Caldwell into the record-tying stolen base by sliding under first baseman Cecil Cooper's neck-high throw to second.
"I feel great about tying the record, and being in the same category with somebody like Lou Brock," Henderson said. "Caldwell was doing something different in his move to the plate. He was locking his knee, and giving me a lot of moves and I was freezing. On the pickoff, I was going to go off the first key, and I broke for second. I got down the basepath and when the throw didn't go over my head yet, I thought I might have a chance." He did, sliding in before Yount's tag.
That was Henderson's only opportunity tonight. He flied out twice and grounded out in his other at bats. After he reached second in the first inning, he went to third on Dwayne Murphy's grounder and scored on Dave Lopes' ground out to short. "With a lefty up (Murphy), the coach told me to let him get me over to third," Henderson said. "We wanted to get a run before we worried about my record."
Henderson received a standing ovation from the County Stadium crowd of 30,896, which had been cheering and chanting, "Go, go, go" after he reached first.
Even Caldwell admired Henderson's accomplishment. "He's so fast, it's gotta be a bang-bang play at second to get him, and we just didn't quite do it right," the pitcher said. "I winked at him afterward. It was a part of baseball history, whether I'm part of it or not. It's something to tell my kids about."
Yount was amazed that Henderson beat Cooper's throw to second after the pickoff. "Without a doubt, there's no better base stealer I've ever seen," he said. "Probably there are some guys who can run with him, but his acceleration is unbelievable. He's going full speed after two steps."
After he scored, Henderson stopped near the A's dugout to kiss his mother, who flew in to attend the game. "She was more excited than I was," Henderson said. "She chose this game for me."