Yankees History: Rickey Henderson sets the leadoff home run record

New York Yankees outfielder Rickey Henderson in 1989. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
New York Yankees outfielder Rickey Henderson in 1989. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images) /

Rickey Henderson is well-remembered for a number of things from his Hall of Fame career. He holds numerous MLB records, but it was on this day in 1989 that one of them became a part of New York Yankees history.

Rickey Henderson opened up the Yankees game against the Chicago White Sox with a leadoff home run. Henderson’s record-breaking shot came off right-hander Scott Hillegas, a journeyman right-hander who played for five teams over a seven-year career. It was Henderson’s lone hit on the day, a 3-1 Yankees victory.

The blast marked the 36th time Henderson hit a leadoff home run, breaking a tie he held with Bobby Bonds. Eight other players have since passed that mark.

The 1989 season was Henderson’s last in pinstripes. He appeared in 65 games, batting .247/.392/.349 in 293 plate appearances before a July 31 trade sent him back to Oakland.

Henderson is best known for his stolen base totals. He holds the career and season-best marks for both stolen bases and caught stealing. He also led the league in stolen bases more times than any other player in baseball history. He scored more runs, was unintentionally walked more times, and had more consecutive seasons with at least one home run than anyone.

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Henderson finished his career with 81 leadoff home runs. A distant second on the list is another former Yankee, Alfonso Soriano, who had 54 during his career. The 13 leadoff home runs he hit as a Yankee in 2003 are a single-season record.

The others who eventually passed Bonds: Craig Biggio (53), Ian Kinsler (48), former Yankee Curtis Granderson (47), Jimmy Rollins (46), Brady Anderson (44), former Yankee Ichiro Suzuki (37), Charlie Blackmon (36), and George Springer (36).