Love of game keeps Henderson going

Updated: May 20, 2004, 9:12 AM ET
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN Insider
NEWARK, N.J. -- Magic Frank, the official magician of the Atlantic League's Newark Bears, attracts swarms of children on the Riverfront Stadium concourse during games. The kids chatter excitedly and their jaws drop in amazement as he turns nickels into dimes and makes a playing card mysteriously rise from the top of the deck.

Some feats of legerdemain -- like finding a big-league job for Newark left fielder Rickey Henderson -- are beyond even Magic Frank's realm of expertise. Magic Frank, Lawrence Frank, Frank Robinson and Magic Johnson could pool their resources and imaginations, and it wouldn't make a shred of difference.

Henderson, baseball's career leader in stolen bases, walks and runs scored, needs more than prestidigitation to transform him from Newark Bear to major leaguer again. He hasn't hit .240 in five years, and he's at a stage in life when lots of guys can pop a groin muscle pull-starting the lawn mower.

Heck, Rickey's closing fast on 46, the age that convinced even Jesse Orosco to retire.

He won't give in, because he wants to leave baseball under his own terms, whatever they may be. As long as there are bases to be stolen, young ballplayers to be tutored and third-person self-references to be made, Rickey wants to keep at it.

Jerry Crasnick

ESPN Senior Writer