Over the last nine days, Rickey Henderson has done more than anybody else in baseball.
In nine games against Baltimore and Detroit, Henderson -- the New York Yankees' multimillion-dollar center fielder and leadoff man -- has 21 hits in 35 at bats to raise his batting average to a major league-leading .360; has scored 13 runs to raise his total to an American League-leading 57; has stolen 11 bases without being thrown out to run his league-leading total to 32, and has reached base 29 times in 44 plate appearances, including a string of 10 straight.
All of which caused Baltimore Orioles Manager Earl Weaver to shout from the dugout one night, "Henderson, you ever gonna make an out?"
"It ain't been but a week," Henderson reminded. "I got 15 hits in 20 at bats (for five games) in one week, but it's just a week. It's a big week -- I hit home runs, stole bases, did it all for one week. But I won't consider myself real hot until I do it for several weeks."
The players in the Yankees clubhouse are joking about buying a computer to take along on the team bus to figure out Henderson's stats.
Ken Griffey, lately the No. 2 hitter in the New York lineup, was asked about baseball's great leadoff men. "You know who I hit behind in Cincinnati, don't you?" Griffey said, not even needing to say the name Pete Rose. "Well, Rickey can do a lot more."
When Henderson was traded from Oakland to the Yankees and signed a five-year contract with owner George Steinbrenner reportedly worth $8.6 million, all Henderson remembers hearing about was "pressure, pressure, pressure; all the pressure of playing in New York."
It was thought he might feel that pressure when he missed some of spring training and the first 13 games of the season with a severely sprained ankle, then hit less than .200 in his first nine games.
"I heard all the talk about pressure, and I didn't believe in it," Henderson said. "The boss might get ticked off if things ain't going exactly right and jam you up, but that happens on jobs in everyday life, right? The boss in baseball isn't any different. You just try your best to do what you're supposed to, and if you do, the boss won't jam you up."
During the Orioles-Yankees series here this week, Henderson has looked like the happiest man in the world. He's about a zero-for-30 stretch from being jammed up. For 15 minutes before Monday's game, he walked up and down the right field line beyond the Yankees dugout and signed autographs.
Once he begins talking, he is hardly shy and reticent. "Last week was one of the outstanding weeks that probably anybody has had," Henderson said. "I hope I can continue. Baltimore is usually that team I get hot with."
Weaver and the Orioles don't need to be reminded. Henderson's lifetime batting average against the Orioles is better than .360; this season it's .700.
"It's amazing how well I have hit against Baltimore," Henderson said. "I'm scared to even talk about it now. It's happened all the years I've been playing in the major leagues (seven).
"Ever since I was a rookie (in 1979), Earl's said, 'Now, how can I get you out?' Eddie Murray used to come to Oakland and say, 'You've been cold but now that we're here I know you're gonna get some hits.' "
"I guess he (Weaver) wishes he had me playing for him. They tried to trade for me before the Yankees did.
"They were about to trade Storm Davis and Mike Young to the A's for me, but the Yankees were going to give up more pitching than Baltimore. I had already thought about playing Baltimore."
What hurts teams as much as Henderson's hits are his walks. He already has 32, including one Monday night here in Yankee Stadium that led to a stolen base and New York's first run of the game.
"This guy (draws) walks as good as any player I've ever seen in the major leagues," Weaver said. "The umps don't even get down his strike zone because of his crouch. He's always ahead, 2-1, 3-0 in the count.
"You can't give in and walk him because it becomes at least a double (when he steals second) and maybe a triple. The fact that he can do that, then drive the ball when a pitcher does come in, makes it worse.
"He could sacrifice 20, 30 points on his average and hit 20 home runs. He's got the on-base percentage plus the ability to break up a ball game."
Henderson probably won't approach his stolen base record of 130 set in 1982, but he could set career highs in several other departments this season. His nine home runs place him second on the team, he has 32 RBI, and he could surpass his previous high batting average of .319 in 1981.
"I probably still steal bases better than anything else because it's an art to me now. That's the glory to me," Henderson said. "But I want to be known as the complete player."
The only frustration Henderson has known this season came at the beginning, when his debut as a Yankee was delayed because of the injury.
"I came back a week or so early," he said. "Yeah, I did rush it a bit, but I knew I was rushing it. I wanted to play. I was playing in so much pain it was pathetic. But there was all that big talk and I was coming to a new ball club, and I wanted to get on with it."
The most encouraging thing, Henderson believes, is that he is slightly ahead of his usual hitting pace.
"Things seem to happen to me in the same way every year," he said. "I never get off to a good start, but just before the All-Star break, every single year . . .
"One year, I was hitting only about .250, and I wanted to go to the All-Star Game so bad. I had been before and I wanted to go again, but I couldn't go doing hitting like that. But all of a sudden I got hot, just that time, and I made it."
He won't need that last-minute rush this season.