People remember Joe DiMaggio, but they should remember Tommy Henrich, too
We remember Tommy Henrich, who was born in Ohio this week in 1913 and died in 2009. Heinrich played on some of the greatest Yankees teams of the 20th century. His teammates were Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, Bill Dickey, Phil Rizzuto, and Yogi Berra. He wore #7 for a while but never played with Mickey Mantle, who broke in the lineup in 1951, after Henrich was gone.
Like so many other very good Yankees, Henrich was always in the background of the aforementioned superstars. Nevertheless, he had a great career. It was cut short by three seasons of military service, 1942–45. Henrich retired with a .282 average, 183 HR and 795 RBI in 1,284 games. Losing three years to World War II probably cost him joining the "250 HR & 1,000 RBI" club.
Tommy was in the middle of one of the greatest sports accomplishments of the 20th century. He was a key player in Joe DiMaggio's 56-hitting streak, as Rob Edelman wrote:
In 1941 Henrich played a significant role in keeping alive Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak. On June 26, the 38th game of the streak, the Yankee Clipper was still hitless as the team came to bat in the last of the eighth inning holding the lead against the St. Louis Browns.
DiMaggio was due up fourth in the inning, with Henrich scheduled right before him. With one out and Red Rolfe on first, McCarthy ordered Henrich to bunt to avoid a possible ground-ball double play — and not allowing his teammate a final at-bat. Henrich was thrown out, but Rolfe took second.
DiMaggio slammed Elden Auker's first pitch for a double, and the streak remained intact.
Yankees broadcaster Mel Allen began calling Henrich "Old Reliable" — the name of a train that ran from Ohio to Alabama and was celebrated for always being on time — because of his propensity for hitting in the clutch.
In other words, the streak could have ended at #38, and we would not be talking about it. DiMaggio would have never reached #41 or #44, the two records ahead of him.
Back in 1941, it was his legs that kept the inning going. DiMaggio then hit a double and the streak kept going.
After baseball, Tommy owned some beer distributorships and coached a bit. He was active in The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing.
I wonder if DiMaggio took him out to dinner after that game.
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Image via Max Pixel.