Monday, April 2, 2012

DAHOF Top 100 -- #8 Dave Henderson

The Mighty Oakland A's teams from the late 1980's were a awe inspiring combination of charisma, pitching, and (gulp!) chemical enhancements. For me, the speed of Rickey Henderson, the stare of Dave Stewart, the shut-down capability of Dennis Eckersley, and the power of Mark McGwire & Jose Canseco were all overshadowed by the smile of Dave Henderson.

I first became a fan of Hendu during his time with the Seattle Mariners. At the time, he was an obscure outfielder that played with an unique child-like joy. He burst on the national conscience during the 1986 post season, first when he crushed the souls of California Angel fans and next when he came within one strike of becoming the most beloved man in Red Sox history.

Nothing says it better for me than this 1991 Sports Illustrated article:

Dave Henderson's smile runs foul pole to foul pole. It has a gap in the middle as wide as the one between leftfield and center. It is an otherwise ordinary smile that Henderson has simply stretched into a double. It has, as we shall see, made the Oakland A's centerfielder beloved among people with bad seats everywhere, and it once got him traded out of Seattle. Smile, and the whole world—with the exception of former Mariners manager Dick Williams—smiles with you.

The best thing about Dave Henderson's smile, though, is that it is always there, hedged by the ever-changing topiary of his beard and mustache. He circles the bases after home runs as most people circle vacation dates on calendars, in garish and overlarge loops. He high-steps on tiptoes in pursuit of routine flyballs, as if barefoot on blacktop in July. "Playing professional baseball brings a smile to my face," he says. "I don't need much else to have a good time." Which is why, through it all, the smile is on. Always on, like Hendu himself.


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