NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Sunday, December 27, 2015, 5:07 PM
Dave Henderson (l.) and Rich Gedman of the Red Sox cheer after Henderson’s ninth-inning homer gave Boston a one-run lead in game five of the ALCS against the Angels on Oct. 12, 1986. Boston won 7-6 in 11 innings.
If not for the Mets’ famous two-out, 10th-inning rally in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Dave Henderson would have been forever celebrated in Boston for hitting the home run that broke the Curse of the Bambino.
As it is, Henderson, who died Sunday morning at age 57 of an apparent heart attack, is remembered for one of the more memorable home runs in post-season history, leading those same Red Sox past the Angels in the ’86 ALCS.
Beyond his on-field accomplishments during a 14-year career in the big leagues, however, Henderson left a lasting legacy largely because of a happy, smiling demeanor that made him highly popular with teammates, fans, and the media on each of his five ballclubs.
Hendu, as everyone called him, was a first-round draft choice by the Mariners in 1977, and he returned to broadcast their games after his career. M’s president Kevin Mather summed up the feelings of many baseball people in a statement:
“Dave was one of the most popular players in our history,’’ he said, “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.’’
The A’s released a statement that also made note of Henderson’s popularity, saying in part, “Hendu and his smile will be sorely missed.’’
Henderson had his best years in the second half of his career with the A’s, with whom he played a key role on the 1989 world championship team as their starting center fielder.
He also made his only All-Star team as a member of the A’s, in 1991.
Still, Henderson made his mark on the field most memorably in the ’86 post-season while playing with the Red Sox. With the Sox down 3-1 in the seven-game series against the Angels, Henderson hit a two-out, two-run home run in the top of the ninth in Anaheim to put his team ahead, and after the Angels tied the game, his sacrifice fly helped deliver an 11th-inning victory.
The Sox then returned to Boston to win the final two games and advance to the World Series against the Mets.
Dave Henderson joins other members of the 1989 Oakland A’s in July 2014 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the team’s World Series title.
In Game 6, with the Sox leading the Series 3-2, Henderson hit a go-ahead home run off Rick Aguilera in the top of the 10th, putting Boston ahead 4-3.
The Sox scored another run to make it 5-3 and looked as if they’d win their first World Series since 1918 until the Mets rallied with two outs, winning the game on Bill Buckner’s infamous error on Mookie Wilson’s slow ground ball down the first base line.
The Mets, of course, won Game 7, and the Sox would have to wait another 18 years to win a championship.
Henderson, who was traded the next season, was clutch in the post-season throughout his career. In 37 post-season games he hit .298 with a .540 slugging percentage and a .946 OPS, delivering seven home runs and 18 extra-base hits.
Henderson reportedly had health problems in recent years, and received a kidney transplant a month ago.