Remembering a long O's career

It was a sad anniversary to note recently. But when you think about the man himself, and what he meant to the Orioles for 37 of his 45 seasons in pro baseball, you can't help but smile.

Elrod Hendricks was born on Dec. 22, 1940 in the Virgin Islands. He died on Dec. 21, 2005 - just one day shy of his 65th birthday.

Camden-Yards-Empty-Home-Opener-Sidebar.jpgHe was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame as a coach in 2001 and he spent 28 seasons as the club's bullpen coach. His baseball record notes that the Orioles acquired him from California on Nov. 28, 1967 in the Rule 5 draft. That part, I had not remembered. Earl Weaver had seen him play winter ball in Puerto Rico.

Any O's fan of a certain age could not forget all this guy did wearing the orange and black. Always smiling, always willing to help, and always willing to sign autographs and create goodwill with the fans. If there is an Oriole that has signed more autographs in his time on Earth than Cal Ripken Jr., it's probably Elrod.

And you only need his first name, Elrod, for most O's fans to know of whom you speak. Like with Earl, Cal, Frank, Eddie, Brooks, Boog and Jim - to list a few members of O's royalty.

The Orioles traded Hendricks twice and got him back each time. They dealt him to the Cubs for Tommy Davis on Sept. 18, 1972 and got him back from the Cubs for Frank Estrada months later. On June 15, 1976 he was part of the 10-player trade between the Orioles and Yankees as he headed to New York in a deal that brought Scott McGregor, Tippy Martinez and Rick Dempsey to Baltimore.

We should never forget he teamed with Andy Etchebarren to work the plate from 1969-1971 for O's teams that won 100 games in each of those seasons, played in three straight World Series and won it all over the Reds in 1970. He was guiding the ship, so to speak, many nights for the best teams in club history.

He was part of a crazy play at the plate in the 1970 World Series opener against Cincinnati. He fielded a high chop just in front of the plate and tagged Bernie Carbo out as he hustled for home. Umpire Ken Burkhart made the out call, but replays showed that Hendricks had tagged him with his glove but still had the ball in his bare hand. The O's got a break there, but thanks to Brooks Robinson they didn't need many others in defeating the Big Red Machine.

Whether you remember Elrod the player or coach or both, this wonderful man is a permanent part of some wonderful O's history. Most will never forget his smile, kindness and ability to connect with people. He loved the game, the O's and the fans.

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