December 21, 1957 |
Kansas City, Missouri
|September 10, 1982, for the Texas Rangers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 30, 1995, for the St. Louis Cardinals|
|Earned run average||2.67|
|Career highlights and awards|
Thomas Anthony "Tom" Henke (born December 21, 1957 in Kansas City, Missouri), nicknamed "The Terminator" because of his ability and success as a closer, is a former Major League Baseball relief pitcher. He was one of the most dominant and feared closers during the late 1980s and early 1990s, pitching for the Texas Rangers (1982–1984, 1993–1994), Toronto Blue Jays (1985–1992), and St. Louis Cardinals (1995).
On the mound, Henke was easily recognizable by the large-rimmed glasses he wore at a time when many players began using contact lenses. At a height of 6' 5", he cast an imposing figure and dominated batters with his hard fastball early in the count, and his forkball for the strikeout. Henke struck out 9.8 batters per 9 innings pitched over his career.
Tom Henke started out throwing every night to his father, who caught his pitches while sitting on a five-gallon bucket. "Every kid should have a dad like that", Henke said. A couple of friends, who believed he had pro-calibre stuff told him they would buy the beer if he showed up at a talent evaluation opportunity; he did and was noticed.
Henke was first drafted on June 5, 1979, by the Seattle Mariners in the 20th round of the 1979 Major League Baseball draft, but did not sign. On January 11, 1980, he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 1st round (24th pick) of the 1980 MLB draft (January Secondary), but again didn't sign. Finally he signed with the Texas Rangers after being selected in the 4th round of the 1980 amateur draft (June Secondary).
After signing with the Rangers, Henke was then assigned to the Gulf Coast League Rangers in the Gulf Coast League where he had immediate success, going 3-3 with a 0.95 ERA in 38 innings, earning him a promotion to the Single-A Asheville Tourists in the South Atlantic League. In 1981, he started the season back at Asheville where his 8-6 record with 3 saves and 2.93 ERA in 92 innings earned him a promotion to the AA Tulsa Drillers in the Texas League. Henke spent the entire 1982 season back at Tulsa despite putting up similarly impressive numbers (14 saves with a 2.67 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 87 2/3 innings). He did however see time with the Rangers at the end of the season and made his major league debut on September 10. In 1983, Henke would finally be promoted to Oklahoma City in the American Association, but again his development would stall and he would spend much of the next three seasons at AAA. Despite strong numbers in the minors and similar numbers during his intermittent times in Texas, Henke was labelled as a pitcher who had trouble finding the strike zone (finishing with 20 walks in 28 1/3 innings with the Rangers in 1984) and appeared to be the odd man out in the Rangers' bullpen.
However, Henke would get his chance when the Toronto Blue Jays chose him from the Rangers on January 24, 1985 as a Free Agent compensation pick. After blazing through the hitters at AAA Syracuse to the tune of a 0.88 ERA and 18 saves in 51 1/3 innings over 38 appearances, he was promoted to Toronto and never looked back, not allowing a run in his first 11 appearances and finished the season with 13 saves. Henke was then made the team's closer in 1986, and played a major role in the Toronto Blue Jays' successful run from the mid-1980s to early 1990s, finishing with 217 saves with the team and helping Toronto to its first championship, a six-game defeat of the Atlanta Braves in the 1992 World Series.
Over his 14-year career, Henke was named to the All-Star team twice: 1987, when he led the American League with 34 saves and 62 games finished, and 1995, his last season, and only season in the National League. He also won the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award in 1995. Despite having just finished one of the best seasons of his career, Henke decided to retire at the end of the 1995 season.
Henke currently lives on his 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) farm in Taos, Missouri with his family, wife Kathy and children, Linsay, Ryan, Kim, and Amanda (who has Down syndrome). Since 1995, Henke has teamed with the Jefferson City, Missouri Cosmo Club to hold the annual Tom Henke Charity Classic Golf Tournament which raises money for the Special Learning Center, a school for handicapped children. He also volunteers with Down syndrome charities, the Special Olympics and the Cancer Society, and is on the board of directors with the Missouri Department of Mental Health.
Henke met his wife Kathy in college. "My catcher one day said, 'Let's go to McDonald's' and Kathy was working there at the time", Henke said. "She sold me a Big Mac and I was done. She was tall and athletic and I was pretty shy. Turns out we had a class together and started talking".
Coming from a small town with a population under 900, Henke admitted that he initially had to overcome a fear of big cities. "I hated going to New York City", he said. "I felt like a fish out of water there. I’d go from the hotel to Yankee Stadium and that's it. It took me two or three years before I went out to visit the Statue of Liberty and I never took the subway." On living in Toronto, Henke said "I rented an apartment downtown for two or three years and that wasn’t for me. I’m just a guy from a small town and that's where I’m most comfortable".
- List of Major League Baseball annual saves leaders
- List of Major League Baseball all-time saves leaders
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- "Welcome to the Special Learning Center". speciallearningcenter.com. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
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