When a franchise boasts names such as Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra, Ford, and Mantle, it is riddled with second bananas. Yankee history is fraught with very good to great players whose accomplishments have been overlooked thanks to the passage of time and the presence of teammates who are amongst the game's all-time greats.
Players like Paul O'Neill, Willie Randolph, Graig Nettles, Roy White, Bobby Murcer, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, and Hank Bauer are still relatively familiar to Yankee fans, but what happens as time marches further from their careers and fewer fans actually remember their playing days? It's a theme we touched upon earlier this year as we looked some great, if somewhat forgotten, Yankees from the late 1930s and 1940s: Joe Gordon, Charlie Keller, and Tommy Henrich.
Thus, it somehow only seems fitting that Tommy Henrich passed away today of all days. After a playing career that saw Henrich perpetually overshadowed by more illustrious teammates, and a retirement that - at least in its later years - saw Henrich all but forgotten by the Yankees and most of their fans, Henrich passed away on one of the few days in the last three and a half weeks that offered legitimate baseball news. Henrich's passing was at least partially overshadowed by arbitration offers, or lack thereof.
Yet still, Henrich was remembered today: in statement from the commissioner, in posts throughout the Yankee blogosphere, and the baseball blogosphere at large. Perhaps he was better remembered than I thought.
It's been more than fifteen years since I read it, but Henrich's Five O'Clock Lightning was a personal favorite amongst the dozens and dozens of Yankee books I devoured around that time. Somewhere in my parents' house there is a video tape of a 12 year old me, as Tommy Henrich, being interviewed by my cousin as part of a seventh grade book report I did on Henrich's biography. I think I'm going to have to dig that up now.
We featured Henrich in late September in part because the death of Lonny Frey left Henrich as the oldest living Yankee. Henrich's passing leaves 92 year old Virgil Trucks, uncle of Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks and great uncle of blog favorite Derek Trucks, as the oldest living Yankees.
Godspeed Old Reliable.