Five things I learned about Tom Henke last weekend

I’ve been following the Toronto Blue Jays since their inception in 1977, so I figured I knew everything there is to know about Tom Henke. But after participating in a media scrum with The Terminator prior to his induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame last Saturday, I discovered that there was a lot that I didn’t know about the Jays humble ex-closer.

Here are five things that I learned about the Jays all-time saves leader on June 18th in St. Marys, Ont.:

1. Henke met his wife, Kathy, while ordering a Big Mac.

“We met at college and I’ll never forget it. I got there to college (East Central Junior College in Union, Mo.) and my catcher says, ‘Let’s go to McDonalds.’And that’s where I met my wife. She served me a Big Mac and I was finished. I was done for the duration. It was almost like that proverbial love at first sight,” recalled Henke. “She was tall and she was athletic, and I came to find out that she was in one of my classes. And we started talking and, of course, I was pretty shy when it comes to that type of thing. It took me two months to ask her out. She said, ‘I was getting tired of waiting for you to ask me out.’ And we dated all through college.”

2. Henke has a daughter, Amanda, with Down syndrome.

“The Blue Jays were a very family oriented team and allowed us some liberties. I remember I went home for the birth of my daughter with Down Syndrome and I had a tough time with that,” said Henke. “I didn’t understand why God had given me a handicapped child and I didn’t know why he was punishing me. You know that’s the way I felt at first and I think that’s kind of natural. But you know, now that I look back on it, I laugh at that because one of the greatest gifts that God has ever given me is my daughter Amanda. She has taught me so much about patience and it’s not that bad to have a bad game. She kind of put life into perspective for me.”

3. It was the late John Cerutti that gave Henke the nickname The Terminator.

“John and I went to the movies. I think The Terminator came out in 1985 when I was in Syracuse. And our families were gone and we were always looking for something to do when we’re not at the ballpark,” recalled Henke. “So we went and watched that, and I was having a great year in Syracuse and . . . Cerutti started calling me The Terminator. He was like, ‘You’re like The Terminator. Man, you’re just mowing through people.’ And then Rick Leach started calling me it and then those guys got called up to Toronto at the end of the year and they brought the nickname up with them and then everybody in the clubhouse started calling me it. Then the media got ahold of it. And like I said awhile ago, I think I’ve been called worse. So ‘The Terminator’ is not too bad.”

4. In his final big league season in 1995, Henke recorded 36 saves and a 1.82 ERA for the Cardinals. For his efforts, he was named an all-star and the National League’s Rolaids Relief pitcher of the year. So why do he retire?

“Family is very important to me. People ask me why I retired after that 1995 season? And it was for my family,” said Henke. “My kids were starting high school. I wanted to be around. I wanted to see those basketball games. I wanted to see those baseball games. I wanted to see all that.”

5. Henke would love to be a Spring Training coach with the Jays, but he hasn’t received an invitation to Dunedin since 2002.

“I went down when Buck Martinez was the manager – that’s the first time I’ve ever been invited to Spring Training to go down as a guest coach,” he said. “I’d love to go down there sometime and work with the kids. I know the year I went down Chris Carpenter was a young kid and I said to those guys then, ‘This kid’s for real. He’s going to be a good pitcher.’ And sure enough, he’s turned out to be a great pitcher.”

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6 thoughts on “Five things I learned about Tom Henke last weekend

  1. I really enjoy this kind of information. It makes the athlete very human. Of course in Henke’s case it makes him avery “humane” as well.

  2. Kevin, this is another excellent profile of a guy who seems like both a solid ballplayer and a decent human being. Maybe you should publish a collection of these, just to prove that athletes don’t have to be self-absorbed and superficial. I really think there’s a book here.

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