Henke, Simpson and Wood to be enshrined in the Canadian Ball Hall

Source: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame (http://www.baseballhalloffame.ca)

St. Marys, ON – Toronto Blue Jays legendary closer Tom Henke leads the 2011 class of inductees who will be enshrined on Saturday, June 18th in St. Marys, Ontario.

“The Terminator” will be joined by Kelowna, B.C., native Allan Simpson, the founder of Baseball America, the monthly publication commonly referred to as the Bible of the baseball industry, and posthumous inductee George “Dandy” Wood, born in Pownal, Prince Edward Island, who played almost 1,300 games in the major leagues back in the 1800’s, but whose Canadian citizenship was only uncovered a year ago.

Bob Elliott, an icon in baseball journalism, will be presented with the Jack Graney Award at the ceremony as well.

And who knows, Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf and pro golfer Lori Kane might even show up!  When the Hall conducted a genealogical search tracing Wood, who was born on November 9, 1858 and died April 4, 1924, in an attempt to invite a relative to represent him at the ceremony, it was discovered that Phaneuf and Kane, who are fifth cousins of each other, are third cousins three times removed from Wood.  Phaneuf and Kane’s great-grandfathers were third cousins of Wood through his mother.

Tom Henke
Henke’s 217 saves rank him first all-time with the Blue Jays, and his 311career saves are 17th best all-time in the major leagues. He played eight seasons for Toronto, pitching in 446 games, winning 29, and compiling a 2.48 earned run average. He finished his career playing two seasons for the Texas Rangers and one with the boyhood favourite team, the St. Louis Cardinals.  Henke also began his career with the Rangers, who drafted and signed him in 1980. On January 24, 1985, 26 years exactly from the day of this announcement, he was chosen by the Blue Jays as a free agent compensation pick.

An imposing figure on the mound standing 6’5” and wearing large-rimmed glasses, Henke’s best season with the Blue Jays was 1987, when he was named to the All-Star team and led the American League with 34 saves. In 1992, his final season with the Blue Jays, he chalked up a pair of saves and pitched in three of the Blue Jays’ four amazing one-run victories over the Atlanta Braves, bringing home Canada’s first World Series title. Henke, who also made the All-Star team as a Cardinal in 1995, struck out an average of 9.8 hitters per nine innings over his career.

“I am really looking forward to going back to where baseball and the Blue Jays gave me the chance to excel,” said Henke from his home in Taos, Missouri.

“I’ve always considered Toronto and Canada my favourite place to play and to help to bring home Canada’s first World Series win can never be duplicated.  I am truly humbled and honoured, and I can’t wait to share this great news with my family and friends in Canada and in the United States.”

Henke and his wife Kathy have three children, Linsey, Ryan and Amanda, and he currently spends much of his time assisting the Special Learning Centre, a school for handicapped children, as well as volunteering with Down Syndrome charities, the Special Olympics and the Cancer Society. He is also on the board of directors with the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

Allan Simpson
Baseball America’s motto is “Baseball news you can’t find anywhere else.”  The same can be said about its founder, as he is absolutely one-of-a-kind. A public accountant and baseball junkie, Simpson had briefly dipped his toes in baseball industry waters as general manager of the Lethbridge Expos in the rookie-level Pioneer League, and he spent three summers with the semi-pro Alaska Goldpanners, during which time he doubled as sports editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

“I had the good fortune to watch Dave Winfield break in as a full-time position player in Fairbanks in 1972, and Andre Dawson make his professional debut in Lethbridge three years later,” recalled Simpson from his home in Durham, North Carolina.

When The Sporting News ignored the growth of college baseball, and reduced its baseball coverage of the minor leagues, winter and summer leagues, the draft, the ambitious but admittedly naive Simpson, decided to step in and fill the void. He had no publishing background, limited financial resources, and few active contacts in baseball. Yet he believed he could produce a biweekly publication covering every corner of the baseball industry while doubling up as circulation manager, advertising manager and production manager, out of his garage, in Canada no less.

The 2004 Jack Graney Award winner moved his family to White Rock, B.C., and established post office boxes in Blaine and Bellingham, Washington.

“I had to do everything I could to give readers the impression this was a USA-based publication.  Otherwise, it was akin to starting a hockey publication in the U.S. – it wouldn’t have worked if readers thought it was a Canadian product,” added Simpson. “I had none of today’s sophisticated word-processing and production capabilities. My garage in White Rock was equipped with a typesetter so primitive that it had no memory. You could see the line you were typing on the screen and nothing more.  If the processor ate your copy, it was gone.”

The publication originated with 1,500 subscribers and 30 years later has a base of approximately 250,000 readers.

1997-inductee Pat Gillick recalled the days when the industry’s hardest-working scouts resented Baseball America due to the in-depth information Simpson assembled.

“This recognition is overdue,” said Gillick. “Allan has always had a love and passion for baseball, and when today’s scouts, general managers, players and fans want the close-to-the-scene information, they all turn to Baseball America.”

The Ball Hall also received outstanding endorsements of Simpson from Alex Anthopoulos, Doug Melvin, Dave Dombrowski, John Schuerholz, Terry Ryan, Gary Hughes, Greg Hamilton and Jim Callis, among many others.

“This is truly a great personal honor, certainly the greatest I have ever received,” gushed Simpson. “In so many ways it validates and puts into perspective everything I have done in the baseball world. It is all the more meaningful as it is all about Canada, and I have never forgotten my Canadian roots.”

“Baseball was underexposed in many areas at the grassroots level of the sport, in both Canada and the United States, when I had the good fortune to launch Baseball America 30 years ago. I take great satisfaction in the role that I have played through the years to help publicize and promote this great game. I am very grateful to the Canadian Hall of Fame for recognizing this contribution.”

Simpson and his wife Jill have three children, all Canadian-born, Jordan, Kelsey and Jeffrey. He left Baseball America after 25 years to become vice-president and director of national scouting with Perfect Game USA, the world’s largest baseball event company and scouting service. They are about to open a new complex in Cartersville, Ga., where they will expand their staging of high school tournaments and showcases.

George “Dandy” Wood
“Dandy,” who played from 1880 to 1892 for Worchester, Detroit, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Cincinnati, was the eighth Canadian to reach the major leagues, and one of only three to come from P.E.I., along with Vern Handrahan and Henry Oxley. He was the only Canadian on the Ball Hall’s ballot who had played more than one thousand games, and becomes the second Hall of Famer to hail from P.E.I., joining 2002 inductee Don McDougall.

The National League’s 1882 home run champion also became one of only eight Canadians to manage in the major leagues (143 games with Philadelphia in 1891), and was also one of only six Canadians to umpire in the majors (1886-98). The gifted outfielder led the National league in putouts (226) in 1883, and in assists (35) in 1890. His lifetime batting average was .273, collecting 1,467 hits, 228 doubles, a Canadian-best 132 triples, 68 homeruns and 601 RBI while stealing 113 bases.

The 2009 inductee to the P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame played on the first team of professionals to play in Cuba (1879-80). In his first week in the major leagues, Wood initiated the 11th triple play in history. He played left field for the winning team in the first perfect game recorded in baseball history (June 12, 1880).  He was a teammate of fellow Hall-of-Famers Arthur Irwin and Tip O’Neill. Wood became the first Canadian to hit for the cycle on June 12, 1885, (O’Neill did it twice two years later). His final career home run was hit off of Clark Griffith, father of inductee Calvin Griffith and great-uncle of inductee Sherry Robertson.

“George’s career stats are all the more remarkable in that baseballs of that era were inferior in quality and well-abused before replacement,” said Douglas MacDonald of Charlottetown, PEI, whose mother was a third cousin of Wood, and who is hopeful of attending the ceremony in St. Marys on June 18th.

“This is such wonderful news, and I’m sure that George would be very honoured to join such an elite group.”

Following Wood’s distinguished career, he eventually became a ticket-taker at the American League ballpark in Philadelphia in 1911, a messenger in the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, and spent his final decade as a Marshall of the new Pennsylvania Public Service Commission.  He died in Harrisburgh, Pennsylvania.

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One thought on “Henke, Simpson and Wood to be enshrined in the Canadian Ball Hall

  1. What a great group of three.
    Tom Henke, the Saves King with 311 career saves (217 with Jays).
    Canadian Allan Simpson, the writing King, as the guy who started Baseball America.
    Canadian George “Dandy” Wood, the Homerun King with won the Homerun title in 1882 with 7 hr’s.

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