Hendricks in 1968
|Born: December 22, 1940|
Charlotte Amalie, United States Virgin Islands
|Died: December 21, 2005 (aged 64)|
Glen Burnie, Maryland
|April 13, 1968, for the Baltimore Orioles|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 19, 1979, for the Baltimore Orioles|
|Runs batted in||230|
|Career highlights and awards|
Elrod Jerome "Ellie" Hendricks (December 22, 1940 - December 21, 2005) was a U.S. Virgin Islander professional baseball player and coach. He played in Major League Baseball as a catcher from 1968 through 1979, most notably as a member of the Baltimore Orioles dynasty that won three consecutive American League pennants from 1969 to 1971 and, won the World Series in 1970. He also played for the Chicago Cubs (1972) and New York Yankees (1976–1977). In 2001, he was inducted into the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame.
A native of Charlotte Amalie, United States Virgin Islands, Hendricks was selected by the Baltimore Orioles from the California Angels in the Rule 5 draft on November 28, 1967. He was a superior defensive catcher and a very fine handler of pitchers on a usually strong Orioles rotation that included Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson, Dave McNally, Jim Palmer and Tom Phoebus. He also spent most of his playing for the Orioles on teams that went to three consecutive World Series from 1969–71, sharing duties with Andy Etchebarren. Hendricks led American League catchers in fielding percentage in 1969 and 1975.
Hendricks also played briefly for the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees. Playing for the Cubs on September 16, 1972 against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field, Hendricks received five bases on balls, equaling the league mark at that moment. His most productive season came in 1970, when he hit 12 home runs with 41 RBI. Hendricks went 4-for-11 (.364), hit a solo home run in Game 1, decided Game 2 with a two-run opposite-field double and had a total of four RBI to help Baltimore defeat the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970 World Series. He also appeared in the 1976 World Series for the Yankees against Cincinnati, made the Orioles bullpen coach following the 1977 season, and was a player-coach in 1978 and 1979.
He was involved in the most controversial play of the 1970 World Series when the Cincinnati Reds were batting against the Orioles with one out and the score tied at three in the sixth inning of Game 1. With runners Tommy Helms at first base and Bernie Carbo at third, pinch hitter Ty Cline hit a Baltimore chop off Jim Palmer who, while running towards home plate, immediately signaled to Hendricks that Carbo was trying to score from third. Hendricks fielded the ball barehanded, spun around to his left and lunged at an oncoming Carbo in an attempt to tag him out, but collided with umpire Ken Burkhart who, while positioning himself to judge whether the batted ball was fair, accidentally blocked the runner's path to the plate. Carbo slid around Burkhart on the outside but missed touching home plate. With his back to the play and after being knocked down, Burkhart ruled Carbo out even though Hendricks made the tag with his mitt while holding the ball in his bare hand. Having not been properly tagged out, Carbo unknowingly stepped on the plate as he was arguing, but the play was dead once Burkhart made his call. One inning earlier in the fifth, Hendricks had tied the match with a solo home run.
He also played a part in a memorable play from the previous year's World Series. With the Mets leading 3–0 and two Orioles on base with two outs in the fourth inning of Game 3, Hendricks cracked a hard-hit line drive into the left-center field gap that most thought would go for extra bases, scoring two runs and putting the Orioles back in the game. But center fielder Tommie Agee, who was playing the left-handed Hendricks to pull in right-center, chased down the ball on a dead sprint, extending his left arm for a memorable backhanded over-the-shoulder catch in the webbing of his glove.
Hendricks made the only pitching appearance in his MLB playing career in a one-sided 24–10 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays at Exhibition Stadium on June 26, 1978. He was the second consecutive position player used as a relief pitcher after Larry Harlow when he entered the game with two outs and the Orioles losing 24–6 in the fifth inning. He allowed only a hit and a walk over 2 scoreless innings.
In 711 games played, including 658 with Baltimore, Hendricks was a .220 hitter with 62 home runs (still the all-time record for a United States Virgin Islands native) and 230 RBI. In nine postseason games, he had .273, 2 HR, 10 RBI. In 602 games as a catcher, Hendricks collected 2783 outs, 228 assists, 31 double plays, and committed just only 29 errors for a significant .990 fielding percentage.
Hendricks was a big star in Puerto Rico. He played for 17 seasons with the Cangrejeros de Santurce and occupies third place on the all-time list in homers with 105.
Hendricks became a fixture in Baltimore by holding the position as bullpen coach for 28 years, the longest coaching tenure in Orioles history. His contract was not renewed for that position as of October 2005, in part because he had a mild stroke in April. The 2005 season marked the 37th that Hendricks served in a Baltimore uniform as a player or coach, another club record. He also had the longest active coaching streak with one club among all major league coaches. After his stroke, Hendricks was reassigned to another position within the organization, one that would enable the club to take advantage of his huge popularity within the Baltimore community; along with his loyalty to the "Orioles way" and to the traditions of baseball, he was a tireless signer of pre-game autographs and a general good-will ambassador. He was slated to be the host for the 2006 Baltimore Baseball Cruise aboard The Golden Princess.
The Orioles wore the number 44 on the sleeves of their jerseys in 2006, to honor Hendricks. Although the number has not been officially retired, no Oriole player has worn it since Hendricks died.
In 2007, St. Frances Academy, Baltimore, MD started an annual baseball tournament in his name.