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They Played
the Game
TOMMY HENRICH

Nickname: "Old Reliable"
Born: February 20, 1913 (Massillon, OH)
ML Debut: May 11, 1937
Final Game: October 1, 1950
Bats: Left       Throws: Left
6' 0"  180

Played for New YorkYankees (1937-1950)
Postseason: 1938 WS, 1941 WS, 1947 WS, 1949 WS
All Star 1942, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950
....Along with Joe DiMaggio and Charlie Keller, Henrich formed one of baseball's most storied outfields for the Yankees before and after WWII. Henrich played from 1937 through 1950 and was Joe DiMaggio's teammate longer than any other player.
Henrich's career batting average was .282. In 1948, he led the league in triples and runs scored, batted .308 with twenty-five homers and one hundred RBIs. In 1949, his consistent clutch hitting helped keep the injury-racked [sic] Yankees in the pennant race.
Although Henrich played in only four World Series because of injuries and three years of military service, he was a key figure in two of the most memorable series games. He struck out with two outs in the ninth in game four of the 1941 series, but Dodger catcher Mickey Owen couldn't hold on to the ball, allowing Henrich to safely reach first; in 1949, his ninth-inning homer off Don Newcombe in game one gave the Yankees the win and set the tone for the World Series.
Moments like those inspired Mel Allen to nickname the four-time All-Star Old Reliable, after a train that ran from Cincinnati through the Yankee announcer's home state of Alabama and was always on time.
-- Harvey Frommer
A Yankee Century
Tommy Henrich was a fiercely independent individual who jealously guarded his private life. He made a conscious effort to appear to live as clean and virtuous a life as Babe Ruth led a rowdy and hell-raising one. For Henrich letting his hair down meant having a few drinks, smoking a big black cigar, or organizing his teammates to harmonize "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," and "Down by the Old Mill Stream" in the shower of the clubhouse after a Yankee victory.
Mostly what Henrich was was serious. He was a bad loser, and he worked hard at becoming a success. He drove his teammates to be successes too, and if he thought another player was taking money out of his pocket by not hustling or by making a stupid mistake, Henrich would lash into him with a biting criticism, causing hard feelings. The young players on the team feared Henrich's tongue-lashing even more than they did [Casey] Stengel's.
Henrich was the living embodiment of Frank Merriwell and Chip Hilton. In a storybook romance he married a nurse who came to visit him in the hospital just to see what "the star" was like. On the field of play he performed Merriwellian game-winning feats. To the press he said things like, "I get a thrill every time I put on my Yankee uniform. It sounds corny, but it's the gospel truth," and it was the gospel truth. A respected, respectful. and patriotic citizen, with all the Christian virtues, Henrich displayed a restraint and moderation and a lack of flair which too often has blurred the memory of his skillful ability to hit a baseball, especially with a runner in scoring position in the late innings.
Mel Allen, the Yankee broadcaster, nicknamed him Old Reliable, and it is this reliability to deliver key hits in crucial situations for which he is best remembered. His lifetime batting average reads .282, a respectable figure, but he was one of the best .282 hitters in the game, and in the outfield he was admired for his guile and intelligence.
Henrich was always considering the wind currents and the position of the sun and the habits of each batter, and he practiced for hours fielding revounds off the tricky Yankee Stadium fences. His favorite trick was to wait under a fly ball with a speedy runner on first and a slower one at bat, pretending to set himself to catch it. At the last second he would let it drop, trapping the ball and throwing out the speedier runner at second, sometimes getting a double play if an inattentive batter, lulled into believing Henrich was going to catch the ball, did not hustle down to first.
Henrich first signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1934. After performing spectacularly in the minors for three years, but getting bounced from one farm team to another, he was beginning to feel that the Indians were deliberately trying to impede his progress to the majors. Though Cleveland general manager Cy Slapnicka had told him that he had received offers to buy him from a couple of major league clubs, Slapnicka himself kept Henrich from coming to Cleveland, leaving him in the minors. Henrich, an intelligent thinking man, and a force to be reckoned with when angered, daringly wrote to baseball commissioner Judge Landis, asking him to investigate, knowing that if Landis saw no wrongdoing, Cleveland might let him languish in the minors forever. Landis did investigate, and he declared Henrich a free agent. Eight major league teams, including the Yankees, rushed to sign him. The Yankees offered him $25,000, outbidding everyone else. Henrich was sent to Newark, the Yankees' top farm club, where he played one week. In April of 1937 Yankee manager Joe McCarthy became angry with the attitude of outfielder Roy Johnson. After ordering general manager Ed Barrow to "trade, sell, or release Johnson," he told Barrow, "bring up that kid at Newark." Henrich became a Yankee fixture in right field for ten seasons, joining Joe DiMaggio and Charlie Keller to form one of the all-time classic outfield combinations. Despite a three-year Coast Guard hitch during World War II, for eleven seasons Henrich starred for the Yankees. He retired in 1950 because of 27-year-old arthritic knees.
-- Peter Golenbock
Dynasty: The New York Yankees, 1949-1964
"Tommy Henrich was another Yankee who didn't care what it took to win. He'd been playing outfield for the Yankees since the late thirties and always put up good numbers, which is why he was called 'Old Reliable.' He was a leader on the Yankees in the years after the war. He was an intense player who would tell young players, 'If you don't want to hustle with this club, there's no use in playing. Everybody has to go all out, everybody has to play together, or we won't win.'"
-- Billy Johnson
We Played the Game
Major League Batting Record
Year
Team
G
AB
H
R
2B
3B
HR
RBI
SB
BB
SO
BA
OBP
SLG
1937
NYY
67
206
66
39
14
5
8
42
4
35
17
.320
.419
.553
1938
NYY
131
471
127
109
24
7
22
91
5
92
32
.270
.391
.490
1939
NYY
99
347
96
64
18
4
9
57
7
51
23
.277
.371
.429
1940
NYY
90
293
90
57
28
5
10
53
1
48
30
.307
.408
.539
1941
NYY
144
538
149
106
27
5
31
85
3
81
40
.277
.377
.519
1942
NYY
127
483
129
77
30
5
13
67
4
58
42
.267
.352
.431
1946
NYY
150
565
142
92
25
4
19
83
5
87
63
.251
.358
.411
1947
NYY
142
550
158
109
35
13
16
98
3
71
54
.287
.372
.485
1948
NYY
146
588
181
138
42
14
25
100
2
76
42
.308
.391
.554
1949
NYY
115
411
118
90
20
3
24
85
2
86
34
.287
.416
.526
1950
NYY
73
151
41
20
6
8
6
34
0
27
6
.272
.382
.536
TOTALS
1284
4603
1297
901
269
73
183
795
37
712
383
.282
.382
.536
World Series
1938
NYY
4
16
4
3
1
0
1
1
0
0
1
.250
.250
.500
1941
NYY
5
18
3
4
1
0
1
1
0
3
3
.167
.318
.389
1947
NYY
7
31
10
2
2
0
1
5
0
2
3
.323
.364
.484
1949
NYY
5
19
5
4
0
0
1
1
0
3
0
.263
.364
.421
TOTALS
21
84
22
13
4
0
4
8
0
8
7
.262
.333
.452

Major League Fielding Record
Pos.
G
PO
A
E
DP
FP
OF
1017
2008
96
40
27
.981
1B
189
1510
82
16
178
.990
1206
3518
176
56
205
.985