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Local Sports

July 27, 2009

Rickey has last laugh

COOPERSTOWN _ I can't recall a single time in my professional career that I've been interviewed, and that's a good thing.

I hope it never happens.

I've always had a soft spot for those labeled unintelligent in the media because they sound awkward in front a microphone, tape recorder or camera.

George Bush, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin are recent examples of politicians who've taken heat, not just for their message but also for the way they delivered it.

As an interviewer, I've always tried to give sources the benefit of the doubt, knowing it has to be difficult to give answers at the spur of the moment and have every word come out as intended.

That brings me to Rickey Henderson, who gave the best induction speech out of the six or seven ceremonies I've covered for this paper.

He spoke for 14 minutes, 5 seconds Sunday at the Clark Sports Center _ sometimes funny and sometimes serious but always entertaining. In some respects, it mirrored his Hall of Fame career.

He thanked the people who helped him get to the Hall of Fame but wasn't overly thankful. He told some humorous stories but not too many. He had a message for young people but didn't beat it to death.

It wasn't perfect, but the imperfections made his speech even better.

Perhaps the lone person in Cooperstown laughing harder than yours truly when Henderson relayed a story about Reggie Jackson was Jackson himself, who buried his head in his lap upon hearing Henderson's tale.

"What about that Reggie Jackson?" said Henderson, who grew up in Oakland before spending many of his most productive seasons with the A's. "I stand out on the ballpark in the parking lot waiting for Reggie Jackson to give me an autograph. Reggie used to come out all the time and I'd say, Reggie, can I have an autograph?' He would pass me a pen with his name on it. He never gave me an autograph."

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