Acid Flashback Friday: Tom Henke’s Blue Jays Debut
Tom Henke has many accolades to his name: he holds the Blue Jays team record for most saves with 217, he’s a member of the Blue Jays Level of Excellence, and this weekend he’ll be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
It all started somewhere, and for Tom Henke it was July 29th, 1985. For this week’s Acid Flashback Friday, we take a look back at Tom Henke’s debut with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Henke made his way into the Blue Jays organization through the Texas Rangers; the Blue Jays acquired him as compensation for free agent Cliff Johnson signing with the Rangers. Henke seemed like the odd man out in the Rangers bullpen, so they were willing to let him go in the offseason.
Although he had a fairly successful stint with the Blue Jays in Spring Training, Tom Henke did not crack the Opening Day roster and instead spent the first half of the season in Triple A with the Syracuse Chiefs.
Henke made the most of his time in the minors; in 51.1 innings of work, Henke fanned 60 batters and has a sparkling ERA of 0.80. Finally on July 29th, 1985 Tom Henke got the call against the Baltimore Orioles and made his Blue Jays debut.
He was thrown right into the fire immediately, as Henke entered in the bottom of the ninth with a 3-3 tie and starter Jimmy Key exiting the game. Tom disposed of the Orioles in the bottom of the frame, and the following inning Damaso Garcia homered to give the Blue Jays the lead.
Tom Henke emerged again to pitch the tenth inning, but this time around wouldn’t be so easy. He struck out Wayne Gross but then walked pinch hitter Larry Sheets to put the tying run on base. Henke then got John Shelby to pop up for the second out.
All that stood between Tom Henke and the win that day was one man: All-Star Cal Ripken. He slammed an offering from Henke deep to centre field, but Jesse Barfield made the catch with just a few feet to spare and the game was over.
Tom Henke was awarded the win for his two innings of scoreless relief, and he would be asked to do the very same thing two days later when he pitched another two innings of scoreless relief and picked up another win against the Orioles.
Manager Bobby Cox must’ve been happy with what he saw from Tom Henke, because two days later Henke would pick up his first save as a Blue Jay on August 2nd, 1985 and would never look back. Henke would remain the Blue Jays closer until 1992, and he would collect 217 saves as a Blue Jay.
If you get a chance, make sure you head to St. Marys this Saturday and honour Tom Henke as he’ll be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
Kudos to Tom for a great career and may he forever stand as one of the best Blue Jay relievers of all time.
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