Former outfielder and broadcaster Dave Henderson, known forever as “Hendu” and for his irrepressible nature, died Sunday at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after a massive heart attack.
He was 57.
Tributes rolled in from all corners.
“Dave Henderson was one of those guys,” former teammate Rickey Henderson said, “you don’t come across enough in life. He energized you and made you laugh.”
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Dave Henderson was the Mariners’ first-ever draft pick in 1977 and reached the majors in 1981. He spent six big-league seasons with the club before an Aug. 19, 1986, trade sent him to Boston and set the stage for his career highlight.
The Red Sox were one out away from elimination in the 1986 American League Championship Series when Henderson hit a two-run homer against California Angels reliever Donnie Moore.
Boston later won that game in extra innings, and won the next two games in the series to advance to the World Series.
“People bring up the home run all the time,” Henderson recalled years later, “and I still think about it a lot. How can I not think about it? It changed my life. It turned my career around.
“I’m not exactly sure where it ranks among the greatest and most dramatic home runs, but I know it’s right up there with Bobby Thomson, Bill Mazeroski, Carlton Fisk, Kirk Gibson and Joe Carter.
“I always thought of Thomson’s as the biggest, or Mazeroski’s and even Carter’s, because they won a pennant and World Series. But mine is up there.”
Henderson’s death came two months after he underwent Oct. 26 surgery for a kidney transplant. He is survived his wife, Nancy, and his sons, Chase and Trent.
“On behalf of the Seattle Mariners,” club president Kevin Mather said in a statement, “I want to extend our deepest sympathies to Chase and Trent and Nancy and to Dave’s many friends.
“He was a devoted father to his two sons and always willing to help someone in need. Dave was one of the most popular Mariners in our history, but Dave was also one of the most popular players in Red Sox and A’s history.
“He had a special ability to connect with people, both inside the game and in the communities in which he lived. I never saw him at the ballpark, or on the golf course, without a big smile on his face.”
Henderson played 14 big-league seasons for five clubs before retiring in 1994. He finished with 197 homers, 708 RBIs and a .258 average in 1,538 games.
The Mariners hired Henderson as a broadcaster in 1997, and he spent 10 years in the position. He returned for a one-year run in 2011. He also was active in real estate and fantasy baseball camps for the A’s and Mariners.
Henderson was active in efforts to raise awareness for Angelman syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects his son Chase.
Henderson helped Mariners broadcaster Rick Rizzs found a program to acquire toys to distribute to underprivileged children at Christmas.
Rick’s Toys for Kids recently marked its 20th year and has raised $2.5 million and purchased more than 100,000 toys for kids in the greater Seattle area during the holidays.
In everything, Henderson is recalled for being upbeat and positive. As he once quipped after emerging from a rough stretch: “I wasn’t in a slump. I just wasn’t getting any hits.”