Being a nice guy is not a requirement for making anyone’s Hall of Fame.
But the list of 2011 inductees to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys will be headed by one of the nicest guys to play in Canada.
That’s not to say Tom Henke’s baseball skills weren’t considerable. He completed his major league career with 311 saves, 17th best all-time. Eight years were spent with the Toronto Blue Jays, where the Terminator accumulated 217 of those saves.
He will be enshrined in the Hall on June 18 along with Allan Simpson, a British Columbia native who is the founder of Baseball America, recognized as the bible of baseball.
The third inductee is George (Dandy) Wood, born in Prince Edward Island. Wood played nearly 1,300 games in the major leagues in the 1800s. His Canadian citizenship was only discovered a year ago.
Henke is one of the most popular players to wear the bird. The Missouri native, where he continues to make his home, was always accommodating, never forgetting where he came from. He was the good ol’ boy from the south who loved to hunt and fish.
“I guess I try to emulate my dad,” Henke said during a conference call announcing his selection. “Someone asked me who my hero was and it had to be my dad. He took care of 11 of us kids, still had time to work the factory, still had time in the evening to play catch with me.
“I had a good upbringing. I tried to keep the important things in my life important; that’s family, faith and that just carried on.”
Henke was an unknown when he came to the Jays in 1985. In fact for Henke, the Jays were unknown. He was in Puerto Rico playing winter ball in the Texas Rangers organization. He admits to being in the Texas “doghouse” because he’d earned the reputation for not being able to throw strikes.
“The call came into the locker-room. They told me I was part of the Toronto Blue Jays organization and the initial thing was ‘Ah OK’ . . . you are just that old country boy from Missouri,” Henke said. “Once I came to realize what the opportunity was in front of me . . . all along they treated me great. When I got up (from Syracuse), Bobby Cox gave me the ball and said “Here Tom, see what you can do.’ I can’t thank the Blue Jays enough for getting me out of the doghouse.”
Henke was a member of the 1992 Blue Jays World Series champs. He pitched in three of the Jays’ four one-run wins.
Henke is looking forward to be inducted in his “second home” and is blown away by the recognition he continues to receive.
“I went up to Alaska this summer and went through Vancouver and people recognized me going through customs,” Henke said. “To think I meant that much to people, they still recognize you 20 years later. It’s hard to put in words what that feels like.”
Henke’s good friend, the late John Cerutti, found the right words for his teammate. He’s the guy who tagged Henke with his Terminator nickname.
“In 1985 I was having a good year in Syracuse and John Cerutti was one of my best friends,” Henke said. “We hung around, went to the movies and saw The Terminator and he started to call me that in Syracuse. When I got called up, some of the guys got called up with me and it kind of stuck. I kind of like it.”
Henke’s demeanour away from the diamond was far removed from that nickname.
On the mound though, the spectacled Henke was an imposing 6-foot-5 with a big fastball that set up his split finger, the pitch that often finished off a batter.
The Terminator was a perfect moniker for him, just like the label Hall of Famer.
Played with Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals
Played eight years for the Jays, earning 217 saves 1985-92
311 saves in the major leagues, 17th best all-time
Pitched in 446 games, winning 29
Made 1987 and 1995 all-star teams
Pitched in three of four one-run wins in Jays’ 1992 World Series title run
Founder of the “bible,” Baseball America
First publications came from his garage in B.C., pretending publication was U.S.-based
Built circulation of publication up to 250,000
Public accountant and baseball lover was general manager of Lethbridge Expos
Spent three summers with Alaska Goldpanners while doubling as sports editor of Fairbanks newspaper
George (Dandy) Wood
Played 1880-92 for Worcester, Detroit, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cincinnati
Career spanned 1,300 games, hitting .273
1882 National League home run champ
Almost was a general manager and umpire in the majors
Played in first recorded perfect game in major league history
In first week in majors, initiated 11th triple play in history