A Relationship that Shaped a Hall of Famer
Sometimes you meet people that change your life. When you are lucky enough to realize it and keep that person in your life, well, then you have something special. About a month ago, I read an article in the New York Times sports section by freelance writer Alex Coffey. The story was about baseball Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson and J.J. Guinn, the police officer/part-time scout that changed Mr. Henderson's life and kept changing it.
We interviewed the author Alex Coffey today on The Drive with Charlie & Dan. She talked about how she came up with the article and the touching relationship that developed between baseball's greatest base stealer and the man that convinced him that he was better off playing baseball rather than football. In the article Henderson was quoted as saying, “That moment wasn’t about the game, I was a single-parent kid. I didn’t have that father figure. J.J. was interested in you, in what you were doing, in teaching you. He looked after us.”
As Alex Coffey eloquently pointed out in her article, Guinn stayed in touch with Henderson long after the draft. In 1976, Henderson found himself in Boise, Idaho, for his first minor league season, which was his first extended time away from home. He missed his mother and still felt football was his best sport. He fell into a defensive rut, committing 12 errors in 46 games. He wanted to quit. Guinn gave him a call. “I think sometimes we believe we don’t have a chance,” Henderson said. “But it just takes one person that really is backing you. I decided, I’m gonna do it, not only for me, but I’m gonna do it for him. Because he believed in me. I’m gonna play harder.”
Guinn continued helping Rickey long after his baseball career was over. As Coffey pointed out in her article, "In the weeks leading up to Henderson’s Hall of Fame induction in 2009, Guinn heard media personalities on television joking that they were excited to hear Henderson’s speech, because they expected him to speak in the third person, as Henderson had done on occasion during his playing days. Guinn wasn’t about to let them ridicule his pupil, so he called up a longtime friend at Laney College who taught speech classes, and suggested that Henderson enroll. It was a learning process, but Henderson emerged more confident as a public speaker, and felt the work paid off on induction day. After thanking his immediate family and friends, halfway through his speech, Henderson thanked Guinn."
Relationships like that don't come around every often. You have to hold on to them when they do. The ones that last a lifetime usually come from the strangest of places. To read all of Alex's article click here.