Tom Henke

This man needs to be in Cooperstown. No, seriously.

Why we like him: Though he looked like a über-nerd, Tom Henke was a beast out of the bullpen.  He recorded 311 career saves, and was just the seventh pitcher to reach the 300 save plateau.  Henke was always a difficult pitcher to hit, likely because batters were befuddled by his looks and blinded by the glare of those wire-rimmed Coke bottle bottoms on his face.  If that wasn't enough, Henke also featured several stalactites hanging from his upper gum line when he smiled that was sure to incite raucous laughter from the opposing dugout.

Seriously though, Henke was a prototypical closer.  He was 6'5" and pushed the scale to 215.  His squinty eyes behind those thick, dorky glasses made him that much more intimidating, making batters ponder whether he could see the inside of his own glove, much less the plate.  He pounded the strike zone with a heavy low-to-mid-90s fastball to set up hitters to swing and miss at his forkball, and he was as close to automatic as it got in the late 80s/early 90s.  His performance even earned him the nickname the "Terminator," which I feel is a bit on the lame side and could have been much cooler.

His job, as well as all other closers' jobs in the game back then, was grossly under-appreciated.  Henke was also well ahead of his time as a reliever in general.  He pitched in a time before Rivera, Gagne, Smoltz, Wagner, and Papelbon made the closer's role a well-known and understood necessity.  Tom Henke was shortening games by 1+ innngs long before those guys, and doing it just as well.  When Henke came into the game, opposing hitters, teammates, fans, GMs, coaches, and Henke himself knew the game was as good as over.

The Henkenator pitched for 14 seasons in the majors.  He started out in Texas 1982 and never really impressed.  He moved to Toronto in 1985 as a free agent compensation pick and had most of his best seasons north of the border before heading back to the Rangers in 1993 as a free agent.  In 1995 at the age of 37, however, free agency saw Henke land in St. Louis.  All he did was save 36 games (2nd in the NL), post a 1.82 ERA, earn his second All Star spot, finish 22nd in MVP voting, and walk away from the game he loved. Yes, you read that right.  He hung up his spikes after what was arguably the best season of his career. In all honestly, Cooperstown is missing a sweet bespectacled bronze bust of a great pitcher.

Ladies and gentlemen, Tom Henke, Ballplayer.

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