While a growing number of baseball's stars are being linked to performance-enhancing drugs, Rickey Henderson said Friday he'll have a clean conscience when he's inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer.
"It makes me more proud that my accomplishments are clean. I did it the right way," Henderson said, visiting the Hall of Fame a day after Major League Baseball suspended Los Angeles Dodger superstar Manny Ramirez for 50 games for violating its drug policy.
Henderson, baseball's career leader in runs scored and stolen bases, will be enshrined in Cooperstown on July 26, along with former Boston Red Sox slugger Jim Rice, who will tour the museum next week. They'll be honored along with the late New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians second baseman Joe Gordon, elected posthumously by the Veterans Committee.
Henderson said some modern players tainted the game by using performance-enhancing drugs, but added it's difficult to pass judgment on whether they deserve a place among baseball's greatest players.
"In my time playing with a lot of the ballplayers, I don't see that they did anything wrong. They took an advantage that the game offered," Henderson said of the years before baseball banned steroids.
Nevertheless, Henderson said he was "shocked" and "disappointed" by Ramirez using a banned drug.
"I was never tempted. I was too fast," Henderson said, adding that he probably would not have been the fleet runner he was if he'd bulked up.
Henderson, who built his reputation on running, took a slower pace Friday as he and his wife, Pamela, spent two hours exploring the museum and inspecting artifacts, including several of his own.
"As a kid, you grow up playing the game, and you never really know what you can achieve. To be inducted with the greatest players ... is a dream come true," he said afterward.
Henderson, a member of nine teams during his 25-year career, will go in with an Oakland Athletics cap on his plaque. He had four stints with the A's, playing for his hometown club in 14 seasons. Henderson won election to the Hall of Fame on his first try with 94.8 percent of the vote.
Accompanied by museum curator Eric Strohl, Henderson paused at a number of the displays. He spent a few minutes examining the spikes and sliding pads used by Ty Cobb and lingered by the Jackie Robinson case in the Negro Leagues exhibit.
He also took special notice of the photo of Eddie Gaedel, the 65-pound midget who pinch-hit in a 1951 game for the St. Louis Browns.
"That looks like my batting stance," joked Henderson, who shrank into a tight crouch when he hit.
Henderson stopped briefly to pose by a life-size cutout of himself near a display recognizing the A's. The exhibit included the white spikes Henderson wore when he tied Lou Brock's stolen base record in 1991.
Next month, the museum will unveil special displays for Henderson, Rice and Gordon, said museum spokesman Brad Horn. The museum also has a number of other artifacts from Henderson's career, including the spikes he wore in 1983 when he set a single-season record for stolen bases.
Henderson finished his tour by taking a few practice swings with bats used by Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.
Henderson said he still loves the game and feels he could play, even at age 50, but added it's time to move on.
"I've accomplished a lot. It's time for me to give back and teach the younger generation how to develop their skills and a love of the game," he said.
Henderson, who had a penchant for the flamboyant during his career and was famous for frequently referring to himself in the third person, said he preferred to be remembered as "competitive" rather than brash.
"I had a lot of desire to be a winner and play the game to the fullest," he said.