Every kid who is a baseball fan looks at their baseball cards closely. And for a young Orioles fan, I examined O’s cards more than others. And then I spotted the big numbers on the back of one Elrod Hendricks card. He was a catcher from the Virgin Islands. And it said he hit 41 homers in one season.
That was good enough for me. Just bring him to the big club in Baltimore and give us the power catcher we can use.
So the Rod came to Baltimore in 1968. We had a left-handed hitting catcher to hang out with right-handed swinging Andy Etchebarren.
OK, he wasn’t quite the hitter that Jalisco (one of the states of Mexico) had advertised but no doubt Hendricks was a cool player to have in the lineup.
And the late Hendricks is part of Orioles history that made Cincinnati Reds fans mad and O’s fans happy. Heck, Bernie Carbo was out. What was he running home on a play so close to the plate anyway?
It’s game one of the 1970 World Series. Jim Palmer for Baltimore and Gary Nolan for Cincinnati. After trailing 3-0 the O’s have rallied to knot this game up. It was tied in the fifth inning as Hendricks pulled one over the fence for a World Series homer.
In the sixth, Carbo stood at third and Tommy Helms was at first base with no one out. Pinch-hitter Ty Cline bounced one off the plate and up in the air. Hendricks waited for the ball to come back to his glove. On the mound, Palmer screamed and pointed to Hendricks that Carbo was charging towards home.
Hendricks spun around and reached for the sliding Carbo. There was a big pile up at home. Carbo was called out even though Hendricks had tagged him with an empty glove.
Oh, well, we needed a break after the Mets series the year before.
Hendricks hit .364 in that five-game romp over the Reds.
Again, there were no 40 homer seasons from this player but twice he posted 12 homers seasons in both World Series years of 1970 and 1971.
Hendricks always seemed like he was wearing Orange and Black but he was traded around a few times. First in August of 1972, he was dealt to the Cubs. We got super designated hitter Tommy Davis in that deal. And two months later we got Hendricks back from Chicago.
Hendricks again was on the move in June of 1976. He was off to New York in a huge deal that brought us stars Rick Dempsey, Scott McGregor and Tippy Martinez. And a year later, he came back to Baltimore.
Hendricks also pitched in one game for Baltimore in 1978. And the right-handed thrower was rather effective. He entered this game on June 26 in the fifth inning and allowed just one single in more than two innings of work. He was clearly more effective than most of the pitchers in this game. The final of this game was Toronto 24, Baltimore 10.
I met Hendricks a few times in Baltimore and he was clearly a delightful person.
He died in 2005, one day before his 65th birthday. It was quite a blow to the Baltimore Orioles family.