Henderson puts caution to Pujols' homer
Will Albert Pujols and Dave Henderson always be joined at the hip because of their postseason exploits? Not so fast, writes Jim Caple.
Yes, Dave Henderson was watching Monday night when Albert Pujols hit his season-saving home run for the Cardinals in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. But no, he did not immediately think back to the season-saving home run he hit for the Red Sox in Game 5 of the 1986 American League Championship Series.
"I didn't even think of that correlation until some of the media outlets brought up that my home run was the last time someone had done that,'' Henderson said from his home in suburban Seattle. "The only thing I thought back to was Albert Pujols being one of the best players in the game and facing one of the best sliders in the game. Any baseball fan loves that kind of matchup and that's what I am now, a fan. Brad Lidge hung a cement mixer across the plate and Albert did what he supposed to do -- he hit it to St. Louis.''
Henderson homered himself into baseball lore when he hit a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth inning against California's Donnie Moore with Boston one strike from elimination. The Red Sox had acquired Henderson from Seattle earlier in the 1986 season and he was filling in for center fielder Tony Armas in Game 5, with the Red Sox trailing 3-1 in the series and 5-4 in the ninth (Don Baylor hit a two-run home run earlier in the inning to cut the lead from 5-2).
"I was basically a pinch hitter for them at that time,'' recalled Henderson, who is now a broadcaster for the Mariners. "And that at-bat, I was in trouble. I was just trying to survive. I was like David Eckstein -- I was just trying to punch a hit through the infield. But as I got deeper in the count, the better I thought about myself. Watching the replays, you can see I got more aggressive as the at-bat went on.
"Plus, I had something to reach back on. I took Donnie Moore deep in June in the ninth inning of a game. So I was thinking about that, too. That's all a baseball player thinks about in a situation like that. He doesn't think about the history of the team or what point the series is.''
The Red Sox returned to Boston where they won Games 6 and 7 with "Oil Can" Boyd and Roger Clemens on the mound, but Henderson says the thrilling comeback didn't have a carry-over effect.
"It was the fact that we were going back home, just like the Cardinals are,'' he said. "We felt like Mike Witt was California's best pitcher and we beat him in Game 5. We felt really good about ourselves because we were going home and because of our pitching matchups. It wasn't because of my home run. We just felt like we escaped that game.''
Although Boston outscored California 18-5 in the final two games, Henderson said he didn't think the Angels came out flat after the devastating loss, either.
"As a ballplayer, you forget all that right away,'' he said. "Remember, this has happened to me on the other side [when I played with the A's]. When [the Dodgers'] Kirk Gibson hit the home run in the 1988 World Series, people said it was devastating. I said, 'No, it isn't. The same thing happened to me just a couple years ago.'
"That's why you take a shower after the game -- to shower off that game. And you move on.''
So will Pujols be remembered the way Henderson is?
"I remind people that every baseball player has one signature event they're judged by or remembered for in their career and that Game 5 home run is mine,'' he said. "But those types of home runs get forgotten if you lose. After the Bill Buckner thing in [Game 6 of the 1986] World Series, no one remembered that I hit the home run that gave us the lead [earlier in that game]. So the Cardinals better win for Albert to get his due.''
Jim Caple is a senior writer at ESPN.com. His first book, "The Devil Wears Pinstripes," was published by Plume. It can be ordered through his Web site, Jimcaple.com.