Tommy Henrich, RIP

Tommy Henrich (he told me he actually preferred to be called Tom) was the hard-hitting right fielder of the New York Yankees from the late 1930s through 1950 (with time out for Coast Guard service during the war). A pro’s pro, the left-handed Henrich was an excellent fielder with a terrific arm and great baseball sense. He was known as “Old Reliable” for the steadiness and coolness under pressure that made him a feared clutch hitter. Oddly, he’s most famous for striking out against the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Hugh Casey in the the fourth game of the 1941 World Series. With Brooklyn leading 4-3 with two outs in the ninth, Casey broke off a sharp curve that Henrich swung at and missed for strike three. But catcher Mickey Owen couldn’t handle the pitch either, and it rolled to the fence as Henrich ran to first, leading to a Yankee rally and victory.

Tom Henrich was also a fine, fine man. Here’s the final paragraph of the New York Times obit:

Henrich’s dedication on the field was matched by a reputation for strength of character. As [Yankees manager Casey] Stengel put it in a 1949 profile of Henrich in The New Yorker: “He’s a fine judge of a fly ball. He fields grounders like an infielder. He never makes a wrong throw, and if he comes back to the hotel at 3 in the morning when we’re on the road and says he’s been sitting up with a sick friend, he’s been sitting up with a sick friend.”

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