December 27, 2015

RIP Hendu

Dave Henderson - Red Sox hero of the 1986 ALCS and World Series - died today, one month after receiving a kidney transplant. He was 57 years old.

Before there was David Ortiz, there was Dave Henderson.

Before Big Papi thrilled Red Sox fans with his October heroics, the man they called Hendu brought Boston back from the dead in Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS. Before Ortiz turned clutch, late-inning and game-winning hits into an art form for the Red Sox, Henderson made a spectacular bid to become the man who would lead Boston to the Promised Land of a World Series championship.

With the California Angels one strike away from winning the 1986 AL pennant, Henderson – a backup outfielder obtained from the Seattle Mariners in mid-August of that season – crushed a two-run homer that gave the Red Sox a 6-5 lead. (And despite World Series championships in 2004, 2007, and 2013, Henderson's blast will remain one of the most memorable moments in franchise history.) Then, after the Angels tied the game in their half of the ninth, Henderson knocked in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly in the eleventh. Boston's 7-6 victory sent the ALCS back to Fenway Park, where the Red Sox easily won Games 6 and 7.
Henderson: "The pitch I fouled off was a fastball I should have hit. I had to step out of the batter's box and gather myself, think about what I had to do. With two strikes I had to protect the plate. I really just wanted to reach down and make sure I at least put the ball in play."

Boston first baseman Dave Stapleton: "I looked across the field and I could see everyone in the Angels dugout getting ready to celebrate. Gene Mauch. Everyone. They had those nice little smiles that you get before you start hugging everyone."

Angels pitcher Donnie Moore: "I'd been throwing him fastballs, and he was fouling them off, fouling them off. Then I threw him an offspeed pitch and I shouldn't have thrown it. I should have stayed with the hard stuff. The kind of bat speed he has is offspeed. That pitch was right in his swing."

Henderson: "I knew when I hit it, it was gone."
And it was Henderson who whacked a solo home run in the top of the tenth inning in Game 6 of the World Series against the New York Mets - a drive that snapped a 3-3 tie would have forever made him a Red Sox God had his teammates (and his manager) be able to hold a two-run advantage in the home half of that inning.

David Lee Henderson played for five teams over 14 seasons.


Dr. Jeff said...

That Angels-Red Sox series was incredible. I was a freshman in college (in L.A.) and starting in September I became a baseball fan again (after not really watching much during high school from 82-86). Of course I was rooting for the Red Sox (having lived in the Boston area as a youth) and I was transfixed by the drama in the playoffs. I think it was the most amazing thing I had seen in baseball since the Reggie Jackson three-HR WS game in '77.

allan said...

I rewatched the entire ALCS recently to write game stories for a book SABR is putting out on the 1986 Red Sox. (Should be out next year.) That Game 5 is amazing, full of important game-turning (or not) moments. Who can forget Henderson knocking Grich's fly ball over the fence with his glove for a home run a few innings before he redeemed himself?

laura k said...

So sad. African American men have the shortest life expectancy of any US demographic.

Also, that whole postseason was amazing.

allan said...

The right guy in the right place at the right time.

hrstrat57 said...

If not for Schiraldi being unable to do his job, Stanley's wild pitch and the infamous Mookie grounder Hendu would have been the greatest hero in Red Sox history.

He hit Aguilera's second pitch in the top of the tenth for a home run to give Boston the 4-3 lead.

As it was he did ok indeed....RIP Hendu!

allan said...

McNamara fucked up big time, too. Never forget that.

Zenslinger said...

I was a sophomore in high school. We became improbably close with our neighbors, improbable because the housing development had just been built in the suburbs. The husband was a New York doctor and Yankees fan. We were watching the game together, saw the HR, and when the game ended, he said, "It's back to Beantown!" Not having watched much baseball with my dad, I had a sense of being part of a tradition when he said that.

FenFan said...

Seventh grade, first season that I really followed the Sox closely, though I had been listening to games on the radio for a few years. 1986 was the year my parents also got cable TV and NESN so I was following the action more on TV, though they were still playing a good percentage of games on local TV (channel 38?).

Actually, most of what I knew came from delivering newspapers (Boston Globe and Cape Cod Times). Reading the recaps at 6AM before setting out on my route made for a good start every day.

Hendu was a beast, taken too soon. RIP

Jere said...

"Who can forget Henderson knocking Grich's fly ball over the fence with his glove for a home run a few innings before he redeemed himself?"

The New York Times obit writer and CHB. Terrible jobs both.

Kathryn said...

This made me excited for baseball season. I kind of took last year off as a fan.