The baseball world was hit hard over the weekend with the deaths of several members of the baseball community. Red Sox and Athletics outfielder Dave Henderson, Reds pitcher Jim O’Toole, Braves coach Bobby Dews and St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Joe Strauss all passed away over the weekend.
Dave Henderson died Sunday after suffering a massive heart attack. He was 57. He had had a kidney transplant in October. Hendu, as he was known by many, was an excellent hitter who launched one of the most famous home runs in postseason history when he went yard against Donnie Moore in the 1986 ALCS. His blast kept the Red Sox alive in that deciding Game 5 when the Sox were one strike away from elimination. Henderson was not just a one-trick pony, however. He played on four World Series teams and played 14 seasons total in the majors, hitting .275 with 84 homers, 123 doubles and 322 RBIs and posting a line of .258/.320/.436, which works out to an OPS+ of 108.
O’Toole was a really, really fine pitcher for the 1960s Reds, starting Game 1 of the 1961 World Series for Cincinnati after going 19-9 with a 3.10 ERA that year. In all he played ten years in the bigs, winning 98 games and making the All-Star team in 1963. O’Toole was 78 and died of cancer.
Bobby Dews played in the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization from 1960 to 1970, appearing in 142 games at the Triple-A level. He went on to manage in the Cards’ minor league system but ended up spending the final 37 of his 53 years in baseball with the Braves’ organization in various capacities, including big league coach and minor league manager, retiring in 2012. He died of natural causes at age 76.
Finally, St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Joe Strauss died of leukemia at age 54. Strauss covered all sports in his career, but was best known for his baseball work, serving as a beat writer covering the Orioles, Braves and Cardinals prior to becoming a full-time columnist. Strauss liked to challenge the assumptions of his readers, doing God’s work at rooting out the homerish tendencies of St. Louis sports fans. This got him labeled a troll by some and enraged a few, but that sort of voice is much-needed in sports journalism and no one gave it better voice than he did. More importantly, his work was always top notch. He wrote eloquently on deadline and was always a thought-provoking columnist, never retreating to the cliches or evergreen topics so many of his peers do.
Sad to see those four go. Good to know they will always be remembered.