The Oakland A's failed to correct a grotesque accounting error in 1982.

 I used to support the San Francisco Giants and absolutely detested the Oakland A's as a child. However, Rickey Henderson had to be respected even by the Giants and Oakland detractors who were most fervent in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Rickey spent four seasons with the New York Yankees in between playing for the A's from 1979 to 1984 and then again from 1989 to 1993. Despite playing for a few different teams throughout his stellar career, Rickey cemented his status as probably the best leadoff hitter in history during his tenure in Oakland and New York.

The big league records for runs scored, leadoff home runs, intentional walks, and total stolen bases are now held by Rickey Henderson. With 1,406 base stealers in his career and 130 in a single season, he was an incredible player when it comes to base stealing. The record was set in 1982.

At the end of the day, Rickey Henderson was entertaining to watch even if you disliked the A's. On and off the field, he was also one of the professional sports' most hilarious characters. Most of these were given by Rickey... in the first person, his career was full of humorous, too-good-to-be-true anecdotes, verbal slip-ups, and hijinks. My favorite Rickey Henderson "really amazing to be true" (but real!) tale includes a $1 million signing bonus and an unexpected call from Oakland A's finance department.

Here are just a few more instances of Rickey Henderson playing Rickey Henderson before we can get to the signing bonus story:

  • 1) Thinking that the Dominican Republic was a clothing store, Rickey once enquired as to how long it would take to travel there from the team's location.
  • 2) He once experienced frostbite after dozing off with an ice pack fastened to his ankle and was forced to miss three games as a result.
  • 3) Rickey once boasted about his new condo's great features while he was a member of the Yankees, claiming that it featured a view of the "Entire State Building."
  • 4) Rickey would repeatedly chant "Rickey is the best" for several minutes before every game throughout his entire career while standing naked in front of his locker.
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The $1,000,000 check

On June 24, 1979, Rickey played in his first major league game. In his debut, he had four at-bats, two singles, and even a base steal. He stole 100 bases in a particular season in 1980, a feat only three baseball players have ever accomplished. He was the overwhelming favorite to earn league MVP in 1981, but the season was sadly cut short because of a strike.

Rickey was making the league minimum salary of $185,000 before the 1982 season, which is equivalent to nearly $600,000 in today's dollars. Rickey received a sizable contract from the A's as a result of his outstanding performance up until that time. His pay would increase to $535,000 the following season (approximately $1.6 million today), then to $950,000 ($approximately 2.9 million today).

The signing bonus, though, was undoubtedly the nicest thing of all.

Just before the 1982 season began, Rickey received a $1 million signing bonus from the Oakland A's as compensation for his achievements during the previous few years. That is currently equivalent to $3.3 million.

As you can expect, for a young person who grew up in a challenging area close to the Oakland stadium, now being a billionaire overnight was a wonderful experience.

However, after that, something really unexpected happened.

A Problem with Accounting

After the contract and the check were signed and delivered, someone in Oakland A's accounting department discovered an unusual error in their records a few months later. Some unfortunate accountant in Oakland was unable to determine why the team's finances were one million dollars out of balance, no matter how many calculations he performed. Even $10,000 would not be considered a little sum of money. It was, nevertheless, completely absurd to be off by a million dollars.

After a protracted examination into the disparity was uncovered, it was determined that the $1 million was tied to a single check. a check that Rickey Henderson had received more than four months prior.

Rickey received a phone call from someone in the accounting department asking if he still had the check. Response from Rickey:

"Yes, I do have it! I'm currently gazing. It's still visible in the picture."

The accountant probably answered:

"What?"

Rickey wanted to frame his $1 million check and hang it on his wall because, as you've undoubtedly guessed by now, he was so proud of it. It appears he was not aware that to become a millionaire, you must cash the check! The accounting department kindly advised Rickey to hang a photocopy of the check on his wall in place of the original by taking it to his bank and asking for one there.

Gained wisdom from life! And just in time, too, since Rickey would go on to make more than $44 million throughout the following 21 seasons. Hopefully, Rickey registered for direct deposit at some point along the route!

What Would Happen If You Cashed a $15 Million Check?

It happens fairly frequently for athletes to forget (or not know) to pay their checks. And the checks may be huge! For instance, it was discovered that Patrick Peterson, a cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals, held off on cashing a $15 million bonus cheque until 2014, more specifically, until it was worth $15,361,000, waiting many months.

When Sports Illustrated eventually located him to inquire as to why he hadn't cashed the cheque, Peterson responded, "I have not really gotten round to it yet."