Henrich, oldest living Yankee, passes away
Outfielder played on seven World Series-winning clubs
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com
12/01/09 4:10 PM EST
NEW YORK -- The oldest living Yankee, outfielder Tommy Henrich, died early Tuesday morning in Dayton, Ohio. He was 96.
Henrich, a five-time All-Star and seven-time World Series champion, hit .282 with 183 home runs over an 11-year career with the Yankees. If not for the parts of four years he spent serving for the U.S. Coast Guard in World War II, Henrich, known as "Old Reliable," may have won even more than his seven titles.
"Tommy was a darn good ballplayer and teammate," Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, Henrich's teammate for five seasons, said in a statement. "He always took being a Yankee to heart. He won a lot of championships and did whatever he could to help us win. When I came up in 1947, he taught me little nuances about playing the outfield.
"Being around Tommy made you feel good, whether playing cards or listening to him sing with that great voice. He was a proud man, and if you knew him, he made you proud too."
Henrich, as Berra alluded, was best known for his exploits in October. In 1949, Henrich hit the first walk-off home run in World Series history off Brooklyn's Don Newcombe, accounting for the only run in a 1-0 victory over the Dodgers.
"Tommy was a terrific player," Bobby Brown, also Henrich's teammate for five seasons, said in a statement. "What made him so special was that he always played well in big games. You get him in a close or important game and he would always show up ready to play. It seemed like he never made any mistakes in the outfield. He was a true professional and an ultimate Yankee."
Henrich twice led the American League in triples, four times scored more than 100 runs and twice finished in the top six in MVP voting.
"I am saddened by the loss of Tommy Henrich, who was truly one of my personal favorites," Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "Tommy was a wonderful Yankee known for his professionalism and for his many contributions in big games throughout his All-Star career, which spanned three different decades. 'Old Reliable' was beloved by his Yankee teammates and played on seven World Championship teams. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I extend my deepest sympathy to Tommy's family and friends."
"They called him 'Old Reliable,' and he was just that," teammate Jerry Coleman said in a statement. "My first year with him was 1949, and it seemed like every home run he hit won the game. His career stats might not show it, but he was a great clutch player. When he hit, it counted. He was also a fine defensive player in the outfield."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Virgil Trucks is now believed to be the oldest living Yankee. Trucks, 92, played in just 25 games for New York, all in 1958.
Henrich's family will hold a private memorial service on Saturday. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that a donation be made in Henrich's name to the Baseball Assistance Team, which aims to aid those members of the baseball community in need of financial, psychological and physical support.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.