Farewell Hendu

Hendu

I spent much of my early working life in Seattle. I was young and broke, married and a dad. I lived in Tacoma and  I loved going to games at the Kingdome. I could go to a Mariners game for five bucks. That was $2.50 for a seat in the left field bleachers, a buck for a bag of peanuts from an outside vendor and another buck for a real big Diet Coke. I parked under the Alaskan Way Viaduct for free and walked a few blocks to the ballpark and watched the game in the concrete tomb with 3,000 of my closest friends.

The M’s were usually awful, and I certainly saw my fair share of awful games.  I remember a particularly terrible game I saw against a not very good Red Sox team in 1984.  I met friends there in the left field bleachers.  The M’s quickly fell behind 12-0 by the third inning, and we decided to pack it in early.  We all lived in Tacoma and headed home by the fifth inning. But by the time we got to our cars the M’s had started something of a comeback.  When  I pulled off the freeway, driving to my house the Mariners tied it, 12-12.  Of course they lost in extra innings 14-12.

I didn’t go to tons of games.  I lived far away and didn’t have much money so three or so games a year was my limit.  But I did go see the White Sox when they were in town on June 25, 1982. The Sox were pretty good, and came into Seattle with a 38-30 record.  That team had some good players, with Greg Luzinski in his prime at DH, Harold Baines (with knees) in RF, and Carlton Fisk catching with future Cy Young Award winner La Marr Hoyt pitching.  This was pretty much the same team that would win the AL West in ’83.

The Mariners weren’t terrible.  They were 37-35, led on the field by Bruce Bochte, Al Cowens and Richie Zisk.  A tall gap-toothed 22 year old was playing centerfield.  His name was Dave Henderdson. The M’s had decent pitching that year, with lefty Floyd Bannister, a young Mike Moore and the ancient Mariner Gaylord Perry, but that night the M’s were starting veteran right-hander Jim Beattie.

The game was a doozy, an old fashioned pitching duel. Sox 2nd baseman Tony Bernazard turned in a couple of great plays, and he was matched by fan favorite and resident hot dog Julio Cruz. The game remained scoreless until the sixth inning, when Henderson powered a ball over the USS Mariner in center field to give the M’s a 1-0 lead. Beattie held on to the lead through eight innings.

But in the ninth, Bernazard doubled to chase Beattie.  Lefty specialist Ed VandeBerg was summoned to dispatch Steve Kemp and left for the Mariners closer.  In 1982 that was Bill “Cuffs” Caudill, a colorful figure who threw hard and loved to have a good time with the crowd.  He typically adopted an Inspector Clouseau persona and entered to the music from “The Pink Panther.” While Clouseau was a buffoon, Caudill was not.  He struck out Luzinski looking, and dismantled first baseman and former Mariner hero Tom Paciorek, striking him out swinging. Game over, Mariners win.

The 28K plus in the Kingdome were wild. Henderson was clearly the hero of the game. It is the Mariner game I remember the most, even 30+ years down the road.

It seems incredibly unfair with news today that Henderson is gone, died apparently from kidney disease.

He was a good ballplayer on some very good teams.He remained with the M’s until 1986. When his curmudgeonly and well past his pull date manager, Dick Williams, couldn’t get the team to win, he insisted Henderson be traded because he smiled even when the team lost.  Traded to Boston with Spike Owen for immortals Rey Quinones and Mike Trujillo, his exploits helped drag the Red Sox into the playoffs.  His 11th inning game winning homer to win the ALCS and put Boston into the World Series effectively ended the season, Angels closer Donnie Moore’s career and ultimately his life.  Hendu went on to play center field for Tony LaRussa’s Bash Brothers Oakland A’s teams.  He knew what it was to play on a winner.

When he returned to Seattle to do color on Mariners television broadcasts it was like a breath of fresh air.  As a former player who knew what it was like to play on a championship team, he wasn’t afraid to offer insights that were not quite as measured as those by Dave Niehaus or Ron Fairly.  He was funny and smart and I really enjoyed listening to him.

I was truly broken-hearted to hear of his passing.

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