Dave Henderson Will Be Sorely Missed By Athletics Nation


Dave Henderson‘s smile was infectious. Before Michael Strahan’s patented gap toothed smile, there was Henderson’s.

No other player could light up a field with a smile like Hendu’s, as he was called. His smile portrayed a deep love for playing a kids’ game and for playing with his teammates.

Henderson died early in the morning on December 27th in Seattle of cardiac arrest at the age of 57. He had undergone kidney transplant surgery in November, but his death was a shock to those he touched during his playing days.

Oakland Athletics
Oakland Athletics /

Oakland Athletics

From a generation where most Oakland Athletics fans remember the show that was the Bash Brothers of Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, Henderson was that pure light that would bring warmth to those who saw him play. He can proudly say that he avoided the steroids that were so prevalent amongst his peers and was still a solid contributor on the field.

Although Henderson is best known for his playoff  heroics in his short stint with the Boston Red Sox, his best playing days came with the A’s. He was a champion in 1989 and made his only All Star Game in 1991, when he batted .276 with 25 home runs and 85 runs batted in. In six seasons with the A’s, he tallied 104 home runs and 377 RBI, but it was his postseason success that showed how clutch Henderson was. In 36 postseason games, he finished with seven home runs, 20 RBI and a .298 batting average.

But Henderson was much more than what his numbers indicated. He was a leader in a stacked clubhouse that had plenty of egos to manage. According to Hall of Fame A’s closer, Dennis Eckersley, Henderson was vital in keeping left fielder Rickey Henderson and right fielder Jose Canseco in check. Both stars had notorious personalities and Henderson was credited with keeping their focus in games.

And that famous smile?

"“Everybody talks about that smile,” Eckersley told the San Jose Mercury News. “And they should, but he was also so energetic. He brought that consistent, happy energy. I wish I had that; I was one of those guys who put so much pressure on myself. He wanted to win as badly as anyone, but you never felt Hendu was feeling pressure.”"

Beyond the diamond, Henderson was a dedicated family man as well. After he retired in 1994, Henderson returned home to Seattle to spend more time looking after his son Chase, who was diagnosed with Angelman syndrome, a neurogenetic disorder. Having roots to several clubs including the A’s, Henderson specifically chose a part time broadcasting gig with the Mariners so he could be closer to his son.

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It is clear from listening to the way his former teammates speak about Henderson, and the way he carried himself off the field, that Henderson was one of those rare athletes that was a genuinely good guy. And because he was a player that never had gaudy statistics or was one of the superstars on his teams, his legacy could easily fall through the cracks of history.

Athletics nation was blessed to have had such a wonderful spirit and leader on some of their most successful teams. Hendu will be sorely missed by baseball fans and over time, may his legacy be remembered fondly.