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."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.
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."
David Lee Henderson played for five teams over 14 seasons.