That’s right, Tom Henke wouldn’t have become a professional ballplayer if it hadn’t been for friends promising to buy him beers if he tried out in front of major league scouts. The Texas Rangers liked what they saw in the 6’5″ bespectacled pitcher and picked him in the 1980 draft.
He produced lights out relief performances in various minor league seasons and a handful of MLB appearances, though Texas was not comfortable enough with his walk ratio to leave him at the top level. A trade with the Toronto Blue Jays provided him with the opening he needed and a coaching staff that corrected his mechanics. The result was a tenure as one the league’s best closers and a World Series championship in 1992. Batters couldn’t keep up with his fastball, which routinely rung up strikeouts at a faster rate than Nolan Ryan. Those that managed to make contact didn’t fare much better with the opposition only generating a batting average of .207 (lower than Mariano Rivera).
Never comfortable in the big cities that hosted MLB teams, Henke retired at the top of his game in 1995 to a rural 1,000 acre farm. Teams continued to try and coax him back with contract offers for years after his retirement. Had he taken them up on the offer there is a decent chance that his career numbers would have translated into a spot in the Hall of Fame. He has since focused his attention on helping a school for the developmentally disabled.
Adding Henke to the Refractor Set
Somehow this card has been harder to find than many others. Perhaps this is the result of poor collation, maybe there is a Texas Ranger fan somewhere picking up cards, or perhaps I am taking mental shortcuts in assessing the availability of cards. Regardless, I made an offer for the first one I came across to make sure I could complete the set. I like it and really wish I had understood how special his pitching was back in 1993.