Rickey Henderson is, by almost any reckoning, the best leadoff hitter the game has ever seen. More than that, Rickey is one of the greatest players (period!) who ever lived thanks to unprecedented talent displayed with superhuman longevity (25 years in the majors).

And, almost as prolific as Rickey the Stat Monster was Rickey the Team Traveler — by the end of his career in 2003, Henderson had played for nine different franchises, but he’d changed teams a whopping 12 times.

Rickey could do anything, and he could do it anywhere, at any time.

It’s fitting, then, that this product of the 1970s and superstar of the 1980s would find a final cardboard home that mimicked his own journeys.

See …

Back in the 1970s, while Henderson was rising through the Oakland A’s minor league system, Donruss was busy making non-sports cards, waiting for Fleer to finish up their antitrust suit against Topps.

When a judge awarded Fleer $1 and opened the door for other companies to make baseball cards, Donruss decided to jump in — one of the big cards from that inaugural (1981) Donruss set is Rickey Henderson, at card #119.

During the rest of the 80s and into the 90s, Rickey and Donruss were in lockstep through all the coast switches and Action All-Stars and stolen base records and Leaf Studios.

All of it.

By the spring of 2004, Henderson had finally found himself outside of Major League Baseball at age 45, though no one was really sure he was done.

And by the spring of 2004, Donruss was struggling to maintain an identity in the evermore frenetic new card market that featured more than 800 different issues and/or parallels. Donruss certainly did its part with 100+ entries in the PSA Population Report for ‘04, not to mention 30+ Leaf titles.

You couldn’t keep track of it all, or any of it, and many old collectors pretty much stopped trying.

But amidst all the muck and swirling lights, there was at least one familiar issue — the 2004 Donruss Diamond Kings set.

We knew Diamond Kings.

Diamond Kings had been around almost as along as Donruss baseball cards had been.

And, well, old favorite Rickey Henderson was on the new DK checklist, to boot.

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Of course, these weren’t your older brother’s Diamond Kings, the ones that used to lead off each season’s Donruss set, one per team, with paintings by Dick Perez.

Nope, this one checked in at a whopping 175 cards, with subdued sepia-seeped artwork that looked more Gypsy Queen that 80s chic.

And there were so many parallels, it’s doubtful even Donruss themselves knew what all was out there. What we do know is that we got one last Rickey Henderson Diamond King card, a career-capper of sorts, showing him in his final team uniform.

It was and is a beautiful sight — even if you never quite get used to seeing Rickey the Dodger.


Hobby Wow!

Whether you celebrate today as a holiday or not, you can’t really go through December 25th without the eye candy of a Santa Claus rookie card, courtesy of 1989 Pro Set:

You can find plenty of these babies for sale on eBay (affiliate link) if you want to get an early start on next year’s shopping list.

I hope you enjoy the holidays and stay safe and healthy!

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