STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) — Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson said on Friday that former teammate Mark McGwire is better for admitting earlier this year that he used steroids during his major league career.
Henderson and McGwire were key components of an Oakland juggernaut that dominated the American League West when they were teammates with the Athletics for much of 1989-95.
Henderson, who returned to the Oakland organization this year as a roving instructor, talked about McGwire and his return to baseball during a news conference at Banner Island Ballpark. Henderson is in town working with the Stockton Ports, Oakland's Class A affiliate.
Henderson said he was proud of McGwire, who is now the hitting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals.
"It made him a better man," Henderson said. "He realized that the truth had to come out as it is. It was haunting him and hurting him and he was feeling guilty about it, so he wanted to get it off his chest and move forward."
Like Henderson, McGwire is getting back into the game this year.
Henderson said there was little knowledge of the effects of performance-enhancing substances when he and McGwire were leading the Athletics to three AL West titles and a 1989 World Series championship.
"That era, everybody got into a situation that they found something that gave them an edge," Henderson said. "At that time, it wasn't really illegal, and we couldn't find out what it was doing to the ballplayer — helping them or hurting them. Now that it's come out that was something bad for the game, (McGwire) came out and spoke the truth."
Henderson played with an edge during his 25-year career in the majors with nine teams. A 10-time AL All-Star, Henderson holds major league records for stolen bases, runs scored, unintentional walks and leadoff home runs.
After being inducted into the Hall of Fame last summer, Henderson said he wants to give back to the game and the young players following in his footsteps.
Trim and fit at age 51, Henderson is working with Oakland farmhands on the finer details of hitting, running the base paths and stealing bases. He had been away from the game since 2007, his last year as a coach with the New York Mets and also the year he officially turned in his retirement papers as a player.
"I want to be around the game of baseball and I want to teach the game of baseball," Henderson said. "It's great to be back with the Oakland A's, where I started from and spent most of my career. They're giving me the opportunity to come back and share some of the knowledge of what I learned about playing the game and how to go about it the right way."
The Ports play in the California League, where Henderson began his professional career in 1977 with the Modesto A's.
As an 18-year-old, Henderson hit .345 with Modesto and led the league with 95 steals without being caught. He set a major league record with 130 stolen bases for Oakland in 1982.
Henderson's last game in the big leagues was with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003, but he continued to look for playing opportunities after that. Now, Henderson says he is content to move on to the next stage of his baseball career.
"I love the game of baseball," Henderson said. "Now it's time for me to give the knowledge to the young kids and let them go out and do it and still get the glory and thrill out of it."