Outfielder Dave Henderson, the former first-round pick of the Seattle Mariners who became an All-Star and World Series champion as part of the core of the 1989 Oakland A’s, died Sunday at 57.
Henderson had a kidney transplant about a month ago, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today,
Henderson hit one of the most dramatic home runs in post-season history, a two-out, two-strike ninth-inning bomb in the American League Championship Series that helped get Boston into the World Series.
Two years later after a 15-game stay with the 1987 Giants, Henderson signed with the A’s just before the Winter Meetings and had his best year on the 104-win A’s team with a .304/.363/.525 monster season that included 25 homers and 38 doubles.
The owner of an almost ever-present gap-toothed grin, Henderson grew up in Dos Palos southwest of Merced and was a multiple-sport star at Dos Palos High before signing with the Mariners as the 26th pick in the in 1977 draft.
He made it to the big leagues in 1981 and spent six seasons as a fixture in the Mariner outfielder before being traded to Boston in August of 1986. The acquisition seemed to be a flop when he hit just .186 in 36 games, but Henderson wrote his way into Red Sox lore with his Game 5 off the Angels’ Donnie Moore with California one strike away from its first-ever pennant.
The Red Sox came back to win the game and the series.
After the game, Henderson said “everybody talks about the pressure on me for that at-bat, but there was no pressure.’’
“Defensive replacements aren’t supposed to hit closer,’’ he said. “(Angels’ manager) Gene Mauch caught a lot of flak for changing pitchers, but any manager would take that matchup 100 percent of the time.
“Donnie Moore against a defensive replacement who had five at-bats in two weeks? You gotta go with those odds. They’re in the Angels’ favor. Basically I was looking for a way to get back to our dugout after striking out.’’
Henderson would go on to be at his best in the post season with a slash line of .298/.376/.570 in 151 post-season at-bats.
He had some trouble getting national notice with the 1988-92 A’s loaded with stars, but his connection with fans was strong.
“Hendu’s Bad Boy Club’’ was a fixture in center field at the Coliseum from 1988-93, and occasionally he would spend time with its members after game. He made the All-Star team for the first and only time in 1991 with 18 homers and a slash line of .298/.378/.551 for the first half of a season when the A’s were struggling with injuries.
He played with the A’s through 1993, played the 1994 season in Kansas City then retired at 35, moving back to the Puget Sound after that. He did some radio and television work after that for the Mariners and his engaging personality made him a hit.
He never worked full time as a broadcaster, preferring instead to pick and choose his appearances, but Mariners fans found his insights and personality a winner.