If there was one thing fans knew about Rickey Henderson and the Oakland A’s coming into the 1982 season, it was that they were going to fly.

After all, Henderson had won the last two American League stolen base crowns, posting a Junior Circuit record and leading the majors with 100 in 1980 before merely leading his league with 56 in the strike-shortened 1981 season.

The expectation around the game was that he would continue his Roadrunner ways in 1982.

Topps certainly seemed to expect more of the same from the man who would eventually be dubbed “The Man of Steal”:

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These days, seeing that old shot of a young Rickey, blazing in the Oakland sun, just waiting to violate some helpless battery, feels sort of like uncovering an original drawing of Adam picking out his first fig leaf.

It’s at once both the way things always were and the beginning of something legendary.

The card back, though, reminds us that the legend was already well underway, while also giving us a glimpse at a hunk of baseball archaism …

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While Rickey would never win a Game-Winning RBI title, and while Ken Singleton would steal fewer bases in his career than Henderson would put up some months, this card brings them together for a wink, helping us recalibrate our mental baseball mosaic to zoom in on the look and feel of the era, to recapture the moments, for a moment.

Billy Ball would run its course in that summer of 1982, petering out to a 68-94 record even as Rickey took down Lou Brock’s single-season steals record by posting an amazing 130.

And even as Henderson’s A’s teammates flew all over the place, as expected, swiping an MLB-best total of 232 bases … barreling home at every opportunity … taking the extra base … taking risks.

The next season, manager Billy Martin took his risks, and his show, back to New York, for his third of five go-rounds with the Yankees.

Rickey would join him there in 1985.

In the meantime, though — and later — there was more hay to make in the Coliseum sunshine.

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⚾ 1982 Topps Baseball Base Card #90 Nolan RYAN ⚾

End Date: Tuesday 04/30/2024 20:09:59 EDT
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