Tommy Henrich, Brooklyn Forever Joined

Tommy Henrich, known as Old Reliable who helped propel the Yankees to seven World Series championships, died on December 1 in Dayton, Ohio. He was 96. He was the oldest living Yankee and his memory will be forever entwined in the minds of Dodger fans.

Henrich played with the Yankees for 11 seasons, He was a timely hitter, an outstanding defensive player and a leader who epitomized the image of the classy Yankee who seemed to always win.

In the fourth game of the 1941 World Series with Brooklyn and with the Dodgers leading and two out in the ninth inning, Hugh Casey broke off a curve and Henrich swung and missed for strike three and what seemed to be the final out. But the ball glanced off the glove of catcher Mickey Owen and skittered toward the backstop.

Owens would say later, the thing he remembered most was a fat Brooklyn policeman, standing at the backstop, attempting to kick the ball back to Owens.

Henrich reached base, the Yankees rallied for four runs and won 7-4, giving them a 3-1 lead in the series. They also won the following day to clinch the championship.

A Brooklyn writer noted, "Mickey Owen stood in front of home plate and signaled that there was two out before Henrich batted. He signaled the train was coming but forgot to get off the tracks himself.

Controversy swirled around the pivotal play, with some accusing Casey of throwing a spitter but Owen would have nothing of that. "It was a curveball and I just didn't get enough of my glove on it," he continued to say until the whole thing went away.

Six years later, again in Game 4 of the 1947 Series, Cookie Lavagetto's two-run double that broke up Bill Bevens' no-hitter with two out in the ninth inning caromed off Henrich's glove after hitting the right-field wall at Ebbets Field, allowing Brooklyn's Eddie Miksis to score the winning run. The Yankees took the Series in seven games.

Henrich said later that it was a tough decision, whether to go for the ball and (hopefully) record the third out and preserve the no-hitter, or to back off and play the carom. He got caught between the two decisions and the ball did glance off his glove, much like the curve did to Owens as the winning run scored.

The older generation of Dodgers fans can still hear Red Barbers call of he hit ..."Hear comes Gionfriddo with the tying run and here .... comes Miksis with the winning run."

The home plate umpire was so caught up in the dramatic hit, he carefully brushed off home plate after Miksis slid across it to win the game.

In Game 1 of the 1949 World Series, his ninth-inning home run at Yankee Stadium off the Dodgers' Don Newcombe brought a 1-0 triumph. Newcombe was nearly unhittable that game, until Henrick batted in the ninth. Preacher Roe won 1-0 for the Dodgers in the second game for the first, and last, 1-0 back to back World Series games. The Yankees won the Series in five games.

Henrich's dedication on the field was matched by a reputation for strength of character. As Stengel put it in a 1949 profile of Henrich in The New Yorker: "He's a fine judge of a fly ball. He fields grounders like an infielder. He never makes a wrong throw, and if he comes back to the hotel at 3 in the morning when we're on the road and says he's been sitting up with a sick friend, he's been sitting up with a sick friend."

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