Broke Records In Steals, Runs, And Walks
After a brief slump in 1989, Henderson was traded back to the Oakland A's in June, signing a four-year, $12 million contract, one of the most lucrative deals in baseball. The move seemed to rejuvenate Henderson, who batted .325 and scored 119 runs and twenty-eight homers in 1990. For these achievements he earned his first and only Most Valuable Player award. The following year, he broke Brock's career stolen-base record, logging his 939th steal on May 1. In a ceremony to honor his achievement, he told the crowd, "Today I am the greatest of all time" (BaseballLibrary.com). Statements such as these earned Henderson his reputation as a braggart; many fans were put off by his tendency to sing his own praises. "Those words [about being the greatest] haunt me to this day," he told Dennis Manoloff of the Plain Dealer. "They overshadow what I've accomplished in this game."
In the 1990s Henderson was traded several times, playing for the Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, and Anaheim Angels. In 1998 he joined the New York Mets as a free agent. The aging player continued to prove himself valuable, batting a .315 average. Yet his personality clashed with the team's management. Henderson's reputation soured after the 1999 National League Championship Series, when it was rumored that he and teammate Bobby Bonilla were playing cards in the club-house while their team suffered a crushing loss to the Atlanta Braves. Henderson denied the rumor, but some say it led to his release from the team in May 2000.
Henderson joined his seventh team, the Seattle Mariners, in 2000. By the following season he was without a contract, however, as the Mariners chose not to resign the 42-year-old player. After a brief period without a team, Henderson signed with the San Diego Padres. His batting average had dipped to .227, but he continued scoring runs, becoming baseball's all-time leader in that category in 2001. The same year, he surpassed Babe Ruth in career walks with 2,063. In his final swing of the season, he logged the 3,000th hit of his career. Signing with the Boston Red Sox, his ninth team, in 2002, Henderson proved his staying power by demonstrating one of the highest on-base percentages on the team.
The key to Henderson's longevity as a player? "[P]ushups, sit-ups, push-ups, sit-ups—and a lot of running," he told Manoloff of the Plain Dealer. "I'm not going to give [baseball] up if I can still perform, compete and enjoy the game." When he does retire, Henderson will be remembered for his base-stealing and lead-off hitting prowess, and for his many other record-breaking moments.