Thursday, July 5, 2012

#394 - Ken Henderson

The AL action shots return via the card of Ken Henderson. Like Billy Champion of a few cards ago Ken is smack in the midst of his first AL season after a bunch of years in the NL. He looks to be without pain in this photo so it was probably taken before the knee injury that caused him to lose over half a season. Ken came over from the Giants to provide his excellent defense and timely hitting in center between corner guys Pat Kelly and Carlos May. And it was working, too, as Kelly hit over .400 the first month and Ken was rattling off at a .311 clip by late May to have the ChiSox in first place for most of the season at that point. But then Ken got injured and .500 ball ensued and when Dick Allen went down the season was toast. Sort of a tough way to kick off time in a new league. It is also tough to pinpoint from this shot where it is taken. A lot of the other Chicago away action shots are taken in Oakland so that is my bet here. As for the blurry guy behind him? He looks pretty thick in the shoulders and chest so my gut says Allen.

Ken Henderson was born in Iowa and at some point did a big move to the Southwest because by the time he was in high school he was also in San Diego. There he was a halfback in football as well as the MVP of his hoop team his senior year of ’64 and all-county as an outfielder. He was signed that summer by San Francisco and moved fast, that first summer splitting time between Rookie, A , and Triple A ball, even though he hit a combined .191. The next season he was up in San Francisco where he pretty much rode the pines as outfield insurance for Willie Mays. In ’66 he’d spend nearly the whole season back in Triple A where he hit .272 with 66 RBI’s before he split ’67 between that level and up top. Most of ’68 was in Triple A and the military reserve and in ’69 he would be up for good.

By ’69 even though Willie Mays was slowing down, the notion of having Henderson wait around in the wings for Willie’s retirement became too unproductive and with Ty Cline going to the Expos and Bobby Bonds moving to right, Ken got to finally do some starting and split left field with Dave Marshall. Then in ’70 Marshall went to the Mets so Ken got that job full-time and turned in his best season on that coast. He retained the position the next two seasons as well, reaching the post-season in ’71. Late in ’72 new arrival Gary Matthews made the outfield crowded and Ken and Steve Stone got sent to the White Sox for pitcher Tom Bradley.

When Henderson got healthy in ’74 he turned it on, hitting .292 with 20 homers and 95 RBI’s as the Sox’ main guy in center. Then in ’75 a nagging injury helped bring his stats down pretty hard - .251 with nine homers and 53 RBI’s – and after the season he went to the Braves with Dick Ruthven and Ozzie Osborn – that name keeps turning up – for Ralph Garr and Larvell Blanks. In Atlanta Ken would get one season as a regular right fielder where he improved his stats on fewer at bats. He then moved to Texas in the big Jeff Burroughs trade where he split time in right with other former Brave Dave May. Then came a lot of moves and not too much time on the field. In ’78 he ended up with the Mets in the big three-way trade between NY, the Rangers, and the Pirates. But the season was a bust as he got hurt in the field in his first game and in May went to the Reds for Dale Murray. He would stay in Cincinnati about a year as a late inning defensive guy and pinch-hitter, go to the Cubs during the ’79 season, and finish things up in Chicago in ’80. Ken finished with a .257 average, 122 homers, and 576 RBI’s. He had a .343 OBA and hit .313 with two RBI’s in his four post-season games.

When Henderson finished playing he became a sales manager for AT&T in the Southern California area. After 30 years of that he returned to the Giants in the same capacity in 2010.

There is Ken’s playoff performance in ’71 and his best hitting streak. In an otherwise forgettable ’75 he homered in one game against Baltimore from both sides of the plate. He also had a brother play minor league ball and a cousin, Kerry Dineen, who got into a few games in the majors.

In recent music news, final concerts was the theme. On July 3, 1973 David Bowie retired his Ziggy Stardust persona after a show at the Hammersmith Odeon in the UK. On July 4, 1974 Steely Dan performed what it said would be its last live gig – they would reunite live in ’92 – in Santa Monica.

Ken and Orlando did not play together so let’s see how we do:

1. Henderson and Sam McDowell ’72 Giants;
2. McDowell and Orlando Pena ’67 Indians.  

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