Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about baseball and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the baseball urban legends featured so far.
BASEBALL URBAN LEGEND: Rickey Henderson framed his first million dollar check without actually cashing it.
NOTE: This is a guest spot written by Kevin Kennedy, of the sports blog, USS Sports Machine.
Many researchers are still trying to distinguish whether or not Henderson cashed the first check that made him a millionaire. The original origin of the story had him receiving the check as part of his signing bonus after being drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 1976.
That story was proven to be false.
Another story that made the rounds of ballparks and press boxes was the New York Yankees was the team that gave Henderson a million dollar bonus check.
After an inquiry from the team’s finance department, the Yankees decided to send current team president Brian Cashman, who was an intern at the time, to investigate why the check wasn’t cashed. Cashman called Rickey to see if he ever received the check from the team, Henderson replied that he framed the check until the money market rates went up in price. This story is partially true, but with a different team and young team executive that sought out to find the truth of the mystery.
Here is an excerpt from Dan Lewis’ “Now I Know More: The Revealing Stories Behind Even More of the World’s Most Interesting Facts,” that confirmed the A’s did give Henderson a $1 million bonus check when he re-signned with them in 1990 following his return to the Bay Area in a midseason trade with the Yankees in 1989.
After the 1990 season, the A’s finance department tried to balance the books, only to find a $1 million overage – they had too much money in the bank, given what they thought they had paid out. An inquest showed the likely culprit: for some reason, the million-dollar check made out to Henderson had never cleared. The A’s called up Rickey and asked if he knew what had happened, and luckily for the finance people, he did.
Henderson never cashed the check. Instead he had it framed and hung it on one of his walls. The check, as Henderson would later explain, was a constant reminder that he had made it – that he was a millionaire – and he wanted it to be in a place where he’d see it every day.
The A’s asked him to make a copy of the check, frame that copy and deposit the actual one. Henderson, fortunately, agreed.
Current Colorado Rockies Public Relations staffer Jay Alves confirmed the Henderson check story in a story posted by the San Jose Mercury News on August 25th, 2008. It was his job at the time to contact Henderson on why he didn’t cash a check that was issued three months ago. At first, Rickey resisted to take the check off his wall because it held sentimental value to him.
True baseball fans have to love the persona surrounding Rickey Henderson. No question that he’s one of the most popular players to ever play the game. The off field stories about Henderson are legendary as the fans often chuckle at the way he refers to himself in third person. It’s pretty hard to imagine that some of the tales are true, but they usually with the phrase, “that’s Rickey being Rickey.”
The legend, therefore, is…
Thanks to Kevin Kennedy on the fine guest post!
And thanks to Dan Lewis, Jay Alves and Andrew Baggarty for the information!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com.