Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tommy Henrich, 1913-2009. R.I.P.

Former major league outfielder Tommy Henrich died yesterday. He was 96.

Henrich played his entire major league career with the New York Yankees. He was nicknamed "Old Reliable" for his consistent play. Henrich was a five time AL All-Star and played in four World Series. He twice led the league in triples and led the league once in runs scored. He finished his career with a respectable .282 lifetime batting average. Had he not missed more than three seasons due to WWII, Henrich would perhaps stood a better chance to be inducted into Cooperstown.

The day before he died I was watching Prime 9 on the MLB Network. It was counting down the top 9 gaffes in MLB history. Henrich played a central role in of those gaffes. In the top of the 9th inning of Game 4 of the 1941 World Series between the Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers, Henrich struck out on a sharp curveball by Dodgers starter Hugh Casey. But Dodgers catcher Mickey Owen dropped the ball enabling Henrich to reach base. I've always thought that Owen got a disproportionate amount of the blame. Although Casey denied it he was known to throw a spitball and that certainly could have contributed to the sharp break on the ball thus making it more difficult for Owen to get a handle on it.

Whatever the case, the Dodgers were leading 4-3 but the passed ball sparked a four run rally and gave the Yankees a 7-4 win and a three games to one lead in the Series. The Yankees would clinch the Series the following day. It was the first chapter of the eleven World Series between the Yankees and the Dodgers.

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