It was an ever so brief stay with the San Francisco Giants. But he would go on to enjoy great success on the other side of the bridge. The bay area has lost a legend, as Dave Henderson suffered a massive heart attack and passed away at the age of 57.
Henderson, or Hendu as fans would come to call him, will always be remembered for his huge smile, and knack for coming through in the clutch. And his steady play during the Oakland A’s late 80’s run was one of the reasons the team was so consistent.
He was acquired by the Giants in September for a player to be named later in 1987. It turned out to be Randy Kutcher going to the Boston Red Sox after the season ended.
He was not eligible for the postseason, but brought his leadership to a young clubhouse. Had he been acquired before the deadline, he may have given the Giants some of the postseason magic he provided to the Red Sox the year before, and the A’s after that.
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In 1986, he began his journey as a postseason hero. Down three games to one, he hit a 2-out, 2-run homer in the ninth inning off Donnie Moore of the California Angels. Even after the Angels came back and tied it in the bottom of the ninth, Henderson would come through again to drive in the go ahead run in the 11th. The Red Sox would go on to win the next two games.
And even though the Red Sox would go on to lose the World Series to the New York Mets, Hendu went on to hit .400 in the series (10-25 with 2 home runs and 5 driven in).
After his brief stint with the Giants, Henderson signed with the A’s in December of 1987. He produced immediately, hitting .304 in 1988, with 24 home runs, 100 runs scored, and 94 more batted in. His defense in the outfield was steady, as he was always in the right spot, and played the game right.
Having interviewed a life-long, die-hard A’s fan for this piece, I was given a little more insight into exactly what Henderson meant to the A’s during that time. Here are those details.
”He was the heartbeat of those teams, the glue. Infectious personality, comparable to Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors. You only understand what he brought to the table by watching him play every day.”
“Crazy good CF that made things look so easy that unless you really understood the game, you wouldn’t think he was anything special. He never took a bad angle, and glided around. He was always in the right spot and always threw to the right base. He always made a throw that could be cut, if necessary.”
“An above average arm, and always in a position to make a good throw. Clutch hitter with some pop, who came through more often than not. Hit behind guys to get runners over, and allowed Rickey Henderson opportunities to steal bases by taking pitches, and wasn’t scared to hit with two strikes.”
“Always upbeat, always played hard and ready to play, an unsung player and overlooked part of the team.”
Thank you Aaron Denoncourt for those very insightful words.
He finished his 14 year career after the 1994 season, making one All-Star appearance in 1991. Probably should have made one or two more, but was overshadowed in Oakland with all of the talent they had.
His .258 career average in the regular season does not show just how clutch he was. Because his postseason average of .298 and .324 in the World Series (he appeared in 20 WS games) gives you an indication as to when he shined brightest.
Again, if he was available to them in the postseason, the Giants may have had a different outcome against the St Louis Cardinals, and he may have been brought back. And he never would have been on the A’s, who swept the Giants in 1989, with Henderson hitting .308 with 2 home runs and 4 RBI’s in game 3.
He played 6 seasons for the Seattle Mariners to start his career, and developed into a fine player there. He then spent a little over a year in Boston, then 6 more years with the A’s before finishing out his career with the Kansas City Royals.
He was a quality individual with an infectious smile, and the Giants fans should be proud that he graced the clubhouse at Candlestick Park.
He will be missed.