I have never been one of the celebratory New Years Eve types; always looking at the start of a New Year as a time of reflection and introspection. Solemnity, more than revelry, has always seemed far more appropriate for the occasion.
This year was particularly poignant, for the Christmas Season brought sorrow to the world of a loved one, as my daughter lost a dear friend. Amanda was 32, and a labor and delivery nurse at Boston’s Beth Israel Hospital. She was struck by car while running near her home; training for the Boston Marathon which she was running for a charity. An excruciating week ended, when life support was discontinued and, in the true spirit of a caregiver, three people received their miracle in organ donations from this bright light. She left an eight year old son and scores of people who love her. Her 32 years left an indelible mark upon the people she touched and her family and friends who loved and were loved by her.
Amanda Turner Russell
Her passing is a cruel reminder of the fragility of life and the need to capture each moment. I found myself more grateful for my blessings and holding loved ones just a little closer.
As 2015 sank into the sea of yesterdays, the Red Sox lost two legends when Dave Henderson (Dec, 27th) and Frank Malzone (Dec. 29th) passed away. Henderson, 57, succumbed to a heart attack in Seattle nearly two months after receiving a kidney transplant; while Malzone, 85, died in his home in Needham Massachusetts. And with them, went a piece of my childhood, a piece of my youth.
Dave Henderson was rarely, if ever, seen without a smile on his face.
Frank Malzone is the only Red Sox third baseman to win a Gold Glove.
These two men left their indelible marks upon the Red Sox and the city and did so in decidedly different ways. They came from different eras, one a highly touted first round pick, the other toiled for seven years in the minor leagues before making it to the show. One was a bolt of lightning, the other a steady, constant force.
Dave “Hendu” Henderson was the Seattle Mariners first round pick in 1977. He made his debut with the Mariners in 1981 and joined them to stay the following year. He toiled in Seattle until late in the 1986 season, August 19th to be exact. The Red Sox were in first place, 5 1/2 games ahead of the Yankees in the AL East when they added “Hendu” as a fourth outfielder and to gain some right handed pop off the bench.
Boston Red Sox outfielder Dave Henderson, left, jokes with quarterback Doug Flutie prior to the start of Game Six of the American League Championship series against the California Angels in Boston, Oct. 14, 1986. The Chicago Bears had just acquired the rights to Flutie from the Los Angeles Rams for an unannounced future draft choice. (AP Photo/Peter Southwick)
Dave Henderson came to bat 51 times for Boston during the 1986 season. He had but 10 hits for a .196 average. He hit a home run, drove in three and he struck out 15 times in those 51 at bats, nearly 30% of the time. All in all, rather non-descript.
The Red Sox prevailed in the AL East setting up the best of seven series against the Angels. California led the Series three games to one and were ahead in the fifth game 5-2 when the Red Sox came to bat in the top of the ninth. Bill Buckner led off with a single and Dave Stapleton ran for him. I was on the phone with my brother when Jim Rice was caught looking for the first out. We were lamenting yet another Red Sox post-season disappointment, when Don Baylor hit a two run homer, it was 5-4. There was a flicker of hope. We said goodbye. Evans popped out and Rich Gedman stepped in and was hit by a pitch. Police on horseback circled the outfield as the Angels and their fans prepared to celebrate their first ever trip to the World Series. Dave Henderson came to the plate.
His dramatic home run put the Sox ahead 6-5 and the Angels tied the game in their half of the ninth. In the 11th inning the Red Sox scored on a sacrifice fly by, guess who? That’s right, Dave Henderson. The win sent the Series back to Fenway and the Red Sox won game six, 10-4 and game seven 8-1. It was on to the World Series.
Red Sox fans remember the horror of the “86” Series, however few will remember that “Hendu” hit .400 in that Series, hammering out 10 hits with two homers, five RBI and a team leading 1.208 OPS.
He played only 75 games with the Red Sox in 1987 and was traded to the Giants before the end of the season. In 2000 Dave Henderson’s bolt of lightning was immortalized when his home run was officially recognized as one of the franchises Memorable Moments in the Red Sox Hall of Fame.
Frank Malzone was signed by the Red Sox in 1947, out of Samuel Gompers High School in the Bronx. He made $175 a month his first year and his minor league journey took him through: Milford Delaware, Oneonta NY, Scranton PA, Louisville KY and finally San Francisco before arriving in Boston to stay in 1956. His career, like so many of his era, was interrupted for two years of military service during the Korean War. Playing in Oneonta in 1949, he met his future wife Amy Gennerino.
“Malzie made his debut in 1955 playing six games. He arrived to stay in 1956 and in ’57’ he hit .292 with 15 homers and 103 RBI. He finished 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting and seventh in the vote for AL MVP.
My dad called him “Malzie” and he was a particular favorite in the Sinibaldi household. A son of an Italian immigrant, his dad came from Salerno Italy and worked for the water department in New York city. My dad had a particular affinity for his Italian brethren. That affinity trickled down to his son.
He became a star and was a bridge between the eras of Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski. A teammate of both Hall of Famers, he played with Ted the last four years of his career and with Yaz the first five of his.
Eleven of his 12 years in the Big Leagues were played in Boston where he was a bona fide star on teams that never won more than 84 games and finished an average 24 games out of first place.
His accomplishments were many. He was a six time all star and the first ever recipient of the Rawlings Gold Glove Award at third base. That first year the award was for both leagues and he followed it up with back to back AL Gold Gloves in 1958 and 59. He is the only Red Sox third baseman to win a Gold Glove and he is the Red Sox career leader for home runs and RBI by a third baseman.
Frank Malzone and Willie Mays during the 1960 All Star game at Yankee Stadium. Malzone said his greatest thrill in baseball was hitting a home run off Don Drysdale in the 1959 All Star game, a 5-3 AL win.
Returning back home to Boston following his last playing year with the Angels in 1966, he became a scout, friend and mentor to scores of players who followed him. His influence spanned more than six decades and the mark he left on so many extends far beyond the diamond and many talked about Frank Malzone, the man.
“When I first came to the big leagues in 1961, Frank was the guy who took me under his wing,” Carl Yastrzemski said. “I struggled when I first came up, and he took care of me and stayed with me. He was a real class guy, a very caring guy, and I owe him a lot. You aren’t going to find too many people like him.” Dwight Evans met him his rookie year in 1972. “He may not have been one of the coaches on the team, but he was a coach for me, instructing me on the finer parts of the game… In some ways, Frank was like a big brother. I loved him as a man and as a mentor. He will be sorely missed.” Mike Lowell played five years as the Red Sox third baseman and was the MVP of the ’07’ World Series. He offered, “Frank was always there to give me a smile and a great word of encouragement every time… He was always a symbol to me of what a professional and standup member of the organization should be.”
He was a charter member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame which opened in 1995. Inducted along side the likes of Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Joe Cronin, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Tom Yawkey and Cy Young. His legacy cemented in Red Sox lore.
Last Sunday was a 41 degree Florida morn. Regardless, I made my way to the links to hack it around with these guys.
We have not played together since early November. I got to don one of Dad’s old sweaters and there were reflections of Red Sox days, past, present and future. As the chill of dawn melted into a perfect day I was reminded of the light in my world and all those who contribute to it.
So God speed to those who left us and from the little boy and the young man in me thanks to Malzie and Hendu. And from today’s man who stands on the precipice of his winter, God Bless, Amanda, and I will take some solace in knowing that Addy, Reagan and Quinn, three of my brightest lights, have the beacon of your spirit watching over them.
The year 2016 will find me continuing to chase the light, grateful evermore for all who have illuminated my way; even those who fear the wonder of their own inner glow and know not, how bright it burns.
And thus it should be, for love wins…Love always wins.
And so it is as 2016’s first month draws to a close. The work of Bill Nowlin and Peter Abraham contributed to this story.
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