Classic card of the week

Tom Henke, 1988 Topps

Tom Henke is the godfather of awesome 80s baseball cards, and there may be no better example of his greatness than this very card. For starters, this card proves that Tom Henke was not just great in the sarcastic sense – he was an actual all-star. It is virtually inconceivable to think that this guy was among baseball’s elite during an era that included Mattingly, Boggs, Puckett, Clemens, and many, many others. But nevertheless, let’s take a look at what truly made Tom Henke special. 1) Henke was a relief pitcher for a Canadian baseball team (the American dream, ironically). 2) When Henke smiled, his face bunched up in a manner that made it appear as though he was wearing one of those party hats with the strings that hurt your chin (equally awesome). 3) Tom Henke, rather brashly, ignored the ongoing trend of alternative visual aids, which presented the possibility of not wearing ridiculously humongous glasses while trying to perform athletic feats. During a time when many players were opting for the more resourceful, less-likely-to-fall-off-of-your-face-as-you-were-throwing contact lenses, Tom Henke had the foresight hindsight chutzpah to say, “Screw that. I’m sticking with these.” Truth be told however, Henke did once entertain the idea of switching to contacts, but because his prescription was so strong, his optometrist could only muster up contract lenses that were the size of Frisbees, which Henke would have had to wrap around his head with rubber bands.

But what made Tom Henke an all-star? Let’s see: Pitched scoreless relief to record Save as Blue Jays dealt Angels 3-1 defeat, May 29, 1987. His 34 Saves in 1987 represented career-high and led American League. So, in delving further into Tom Henke’s career accomplishments, we discover that he earned a save on May, 29, 1987 – which is absolutely amazing in and of itself, and on par with DiMaggio’s hitting streak – until we find out it was a scoreless save, which vaults Tom Henke into his own stratosphere among all-time great closers, leaving Mariano Rivera in the dust (who, by the way, never earned a save on May 29, 1987…I’m just saying). What may be less impressive however, was the fact that Henke led the American League in saves that year with 34. This number doesn’t really transfer well to modern times, as a lesser, present-day closer like K-Rod could notch 34 saves in a good month. Luckily, the Elias Sports Bureau was able to prorate Tom Henke’s 1987 save total to 2007 standards, incorporating all kinds of statistical data, like steroids, the weight of baseballs, the size of ballparks, and Lasik surgery. They concluded that Tom Henke’s 1987 season, twenty years later, would have resulted in 8,000 saves, approximately. That’s gotta be some sort of record.

Did you know?
Tom Henke finished eighth in a hot air balloon race from Ottawa to British Columbia in 1993.