Farewell Dave Henderson, I Barely Knew You

On Sunday, as the holiday weekend was winding down, baseball fans found an unsuspected lump of coal in the last stocking hanging. The baseball community at large will dearly miss Dave Henderson (aka “Hendu”), who passed from cardiac arrest at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. He was just 57 years old.

Just perusing the reactions on Twitter shows what a lovable guy Hendu was. The Seattle Mariners paid their respects to the franchise’s first ever draft pick (back in 1977).

Even MC Hammer felt the void that Henderson’s passing left.

Henderson clearly made an impact wherever he was. Across 14 major league seasons, Hendu touched the hearts and lives of fans, teammates, and even members of the media in Seattle, Boston, San Francisco, Oakland, and Kansas City. In his second season in Oakland, in 1989, he was instrumental in helping them win the last of their four World Series titles since moving to the Bay Area. During the “Earthquake Series” when the A’s swept the Giants, Hendu slashed an impressive .308/.500/.923. He homered twice in Game 3, moving the earth for Oakland fans as soon as it had stopped moving along the San Andreas Fault system.

Henderson also made the earth move for Boston Red Sox fans when he crushed Donnie Moore‘s offering in the ninth inning of Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS. That leaping jog as he approached first base might be one of the most memorable home run celebrations in baseball history.

He has also touched the lives of many in need. He dedicated financial aid and much of his own time to the Pacific Northwest Angelman Syndrome Foundation. He took up this cause due to his own son having the rare genetic disorder. The syndrome is a type of neurodevelopmental disorder, which primarily results in severe intellectual and developmental disabilities. In an age when every celebrity has a cause they champion, learning of Hendu’s dedication to this cause just this evening is refreshing, because it signals true dedication and work done without caring for recognition and praise.

Lastly, he even touched my life. In no small way, his huge, warm tenor will be missed from Seattle Mariners’ television and radio broadcasts. Whether he was the most knowledgable guy in the booth or not didn’t even matter — and he was pretty on the ball most of the time. What made him memorable, beyond that big, smiling voice, was that you could tell he was only doing it because he loved what he was doing. That was not the only time I interacted with Henderson.

He visited my high school once just shortly after that 1989 World Series. I don’t remember why he was there. Probably it was some kind of anti-drug campaign that the 80’s became so famous for. What I remember most was how he was so at ease with all of us clamoring, awestruck kids. Amidst the noise, I remember him flexing what seemed at the time to be the biggest biceps ever. The only words I recall coming out of that toothy grin that afternoon was, “Oh man, you think these are big, you should see Jose Canseco‘s!” Then he laughed.

Rest in Peace Hendu! May a thousand glasses be raised in your honor this evening.

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