Tuesday, March 13, 2012
#100) BOB HENDLEY
Bob Hendley joined the New York Mets when he was traded from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Rob Garner and Johnny Stephenson on June 12, 1967. The deal was needed because Don Shaw was the only left-handed pitcher on the New York staff, and was facing the possibility of being called to Army duty in Vietnam. Hendley had only made seven relief appearances for the Cubs to start the season. "I'm happy to come to the Mets," Bob said after the trade. "I need work and I'll start or relieve, whichever Wes Westrum says."
Hendley's greatest moment at Shea Stadium had come years earlier in a San Francisco Giants uniform. As a starting pitcher he was never expecting to be summoned from the bullpen to finish a contest. That is exactly what happened during the second game of the doubleheader on May 31, 1964. After 23 innings, the Giants took a 8-6 lead, and manager Al Dark called upon the last available pitcher he had to throw the bottom of the ninth. "That was the only time I was ever scared to take the mound," said Hendley. "After playing for over seven hours I did not want to be the one to ruin it for the guys." He did not, and retired the Mets in order to preserve the victory.
Bob would make his Mets debut on June 17, 1967 at Shea Stadium. The southpaw threw a scoreless ninth-inning of relief during the 1-9 loss to his former Chicago teammates. Bob was moved into the Mets starting rotation after that appearance. While facing Pittsburgh in New York, Hendley was forced out of the game with an elbow injury on August 13th. "I pitched for nine years of my baseball career with an injured arm," Hendley told me in 2012. "I remember when the bone chip broke free. It was like a pea under the skin. It locked up my elbow and I had to take my fingers and slide it to even move my arm." During this time in baseball most injured players were released without the possibility of reaching their major-league pension. Fearing that the left-hander was back on the mound just seven days later to battle through till the end of the season. In September the pain in his elbow had become too great to hide.
Bob finished the year with a 3-3 record, two complete games, and 3.44 ERA in 15 games. He decided to undergo elbow surgery that winter. "The Mets were good to me," said Hendley. "They never tried to release me while I was rehabbing the injury." His recovery effort took him to Triple-A Jacksonville, and Tidewater the next two years. Failing to return to New York, Bob decided to retire from professional baseball following the 1969 season.
Bob returned home to Macon, Georgia to spend time with his family and enjoy some hunting and fishing. His love for the game brought him into his second career as a high school coach. Hendley first joined Tattnall in 1972. Then moved to River North Academy where he won a state championship. It was after that school closed in 1983 that the former major-leaguer would join legendary coach, Bubber Adams at Stratford Academy. The duo would guide the program to much success winning five state championships during the next 19 years. Including teams that featured both of Hendley's sons. "I knew that he was a great teacher of fundamentals of the game, and my strong suit was organization." explained Coach Adams. "I think we made a very good team and had some great baseball teams and players." Stratford alumnus, Jay Cranford recalled, "I don't think there was a day where he didn't enjoy what he was doing. He was a really good mentor; he'd give you advice and watch over you. He was a good role model—a very ethical, moral man with character."
Bob Hendley signed his card in the set for me before the Stratford Alumni Game at Bobby Hendley Field in Macon, Georgia on March 10, 2012.