Regardless of anything else, this afternoon was going to be about arbitration talk and speculation. That’s why I held off on this post until this evening. Seems good to get the arbitration talk out of the way so that we can focus for a bit on Tommy Henrich, who passed away this morning at the age of 96.
“Tommy was a darn good ballplayer and teammate,” Yogi Berra said. “He always took being a Yankee to heart. He won a lot of championships and did whatever he could to help us win. When I came up in 1947, he taught me little nuances about playing the outfield. Being around Tommy made you feel good, whether playing cards or listening to him sing with that great voice. He was a proud man, and if you knew him, he made you proud too. ”
Henrich played from 1937 to 1950. He missed three seasons while fighting in World War II, but spent all of his playing career with the Yankees.
“I am saddened by the loss of Tommy Henrich, who was truly one of my personal favorites,” commissioner Bud Selig said in statement released by Major League Baseball. “Tommy was a wonderful Yankee known for his professionalism and for his many contributions in big games throughout his All-Star career, which spanned three different decades. ‘Old Reliable’ was beloved by his Yankee teammates and played on seven World Championship teams. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest sympathy to Tommy’s family and friends.”
From the New York Times obituary comes this wonderful, unearthed quote from Casey Stengel.
“He’s a fine judge of a fly ball,” Stengel said. “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.”
Here’s the release from the Yankees, which is also where the Berra comment came from:
Former Yankees outfielder Tommy Henrich passed away at the age of 96 in the early hours this morning in Dayton, Ohio. A five-time All-Star (1942, ’47-50) and member of seven World Championship teams (1937-39, ’41, ’47, ’49 and ’50), Henrich was a career .282 batter with 269 doubles, 73 triples, 183 home runs and 795 RBI in his 11-year Major League career–all with the Yankees–that spanned three decades (1937-42, ’46-50).
The left-hander twice led the American League in triples (13 in 1947 and 14 in ’48) and led the Majors in runs scored in 1948 (138). Henrich hit the first-ever “walk-off” home run in a World Series in Game 1 of the 1949 Fall Classic off Brooklyn’s Don Newcombe, breaking a scoreless tie and accounting for the game’s only run in the 1-0 Yankees victory. Prior to the Yankees’ 1942 World Series loss vs. St. Louis, he joined the United States Coast Guard and missed three additional full seasons serving during World War II.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Virgil Trucks is now believed to be the oldest living Yankee at 92 years of age.
The family will hold a private memorial service on Saturday, December 5. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that a donation be made in Tommy’s name to the Baseball Assistance Team.
“Tommy was a terrific player. What made him so special was that he always played well in big games. You get him in a close or important game and he would always show up ready to play. It seemed like he never made any mistakes in the outfield. He was a true professional and an ultimate Yankee.”
Dr. Bobby Brown (teammate, 1946-50)
“Tommy was incredible. They called him ‘Old Reliable,’ and he was just that. My first year with him was 1949, and it seemed like every home run he hit won the game. His career stats might not show it, but he was a great clutch player. When he hit, it counted. He was also a fine defensive player in the outfield.”
Jerry Coleman (teammate, 1949-50)