Player, Coach Hendricks Dies at 64
BALTIMORE (Dec. 21) - Elrod Hendricks, who spent nearly four decades as a player and coach with the Baltimore Orioles, died Wednesday. He was 64.
Hendricks died at Baltimore-Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie, hospital spokeswoman Allison Eatough said. The cause of death was not immediately known.
Acting Lt. Will Bethea of the Anne Arundel County fire department said the department received a call at 8:17 p.m. that Hendricks was unconscious at a hotel near Baltimore-Washington International Airport. A fire department ambulance took him to the hospital.
Hendricks got most of the playing time at catcher for the Orioles on teams that went to three consecutive World Series from 1969-71, sharing duties with Andy Etchebarren.
Hendricks also played briefly for the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees during a 12-year major league career that lasted from 1968-79. He went 4-for-11 (.364) with a home run and four RBIs 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.
Hendricks broke into professional baseball in 1959 and made his major league debut with the Orioles in 1968. He played in 711 games - including 658 with the Orioles - before retiring in 1979. He batted .220 with 62 career homers and 230 RBIs.
He was made the bullpen coach following the 1977 season and was a player-coach in 1978-79. Hendricks became a fixture in Baltimore by holding the position as bullpen coach for 28 years, the longest coaching tenure in Orioles history.
Hendricks was relieved of that position in October, in part because he had a mild stroke in April. He was to be reassigned to another position within the organization, one that would enable him to take advantage of his popularity within the Baltimore community.
But Hendricks was hurt by the demotion.
"Definitely, the hardest part will be not being on the field," he said at the time. "That's what I know, that's what I've done for the past 44 years, and I did a good job while I was here."
Hendricks would have turned 65 on Thursday.
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 tenure with one club in the big leagues.
Hendricks lost 20 pounds while recovering from the stroke he had in April. He returned in May and was relieved of much of his workload, but then-manager Lee Mazzilli wanted to have him with the team because of his popularity in the locker room.
"It's good to have him back. I think the guys in the clubhouse and the staff were really glad to see him," Mazzilli said at the time.
Hendricks was delighted to be back, because the ballpark was home to him.
"I know one thing, I missed it," he said. "I don't know what it's going to be like in retirement, but I know I don't like it. I watched the games every night."
Weeks later, after he settled in, Hendricks said, "The journey back was pretty smooth. I think coming to the ballpark really helped."
Hendricks had a reputation for showing up at all sorts of community events. On Monday, he played Santa Claus at a charity event in downtown Baltimore. About 100 children climbed onto his lap to tell him what they wanted for Christmas.
"It's a joy to watch the faces, the smiles, watching them open the gifts," he said afterward. "It's a warm feeling. It's easy for me to be involved. It takes me back to being a kid, too. I hear some funny things and have to hold back my laughter."
He was saddened, though, at the prospect of going through the upcoming season without a uniform.
"It's definitely very difficult," he said, "because I've been on the field for so long."