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Top 100 Indians: #92 George Hendrick

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George Andrew Hendrick

Center Fielder/Right Fielder, 1973-1976

Height: 6'3" Weight: 195

Bats: Right Throws: Right

Acquired: Trade, 3-24-1973:

Traded by the Oakland Athletics with C Dave Duncan to the Cleveland Indians for C Ray Fosse and IF Jack Heidemann

Left Via: Trade, 12-8-1976:

Traded by the Cleveland Indians to the San Diego Padres for OF Johnny Grubb, C Fred Kendall, and IF Hector Torres

Hendrick was the consensus amateur player of the year in 1968 out of Fremont High School in Los Angeles, California. The Oakland Athletics (in their first season in California) had the first pick in that year's draft and couldn't pass up taking the talented outfielder. Of the twenty players picked in that first round, only five players would make the majors, and only Hendrick, Glenn Ford, and Mickey Rivers would appear in more than 200 major-league games. The Indians picked a guy named Lambert Ford with the fifth overall pick, but he wouldn't sign with the Indians. They would get Hendrick though, just five years later.

Unlike most of the rest of the players in the first round, Hendrick was not a disappointment. As an 18-year-old, he had 34 extra-base hits in 364 at-bats in his initial professional season. In 1970, his third minor-league season, he hit 18 home runs. He was in AAA in 1971 as a 21-year-old, and ready for the majors, hitting .333/.391/.639 for Iowa.

The problem was that there wasn't much room in the Oakland outfield. The Athletics had a young trio of Joe Rudi (age 24), Rick Monday (25), and Reggie Jackson (25). But Hendrick made his way onto the roster, first in just a two-game stretch in early June (while some of the major-league players reported for weekend military duty), but then stuck for the rest of the season after he was called up again in July. He didn't make an appearance in the ALCS that fall, but would spend most of 1972 with the big-league club, and would get 22 at-bats between the ALCS and World Series after Reggie Jackson injured his hamstring.

As Hendrick arrived for Spring Training in 1973, Oakland had some decisions to make. Reggie Jackson played center for the A's in 1972, but asked to move back to right field, so Hendrick, Angel Mangual, and Bill North battled for the starting job. North would win the starting job, Mangual would be relegated to the bench, and Hendrick would ask to be traded, as he would likely be sent to the minors. Another problem that spring was catcher Dave Duncan, who had been holding out for a better contract. That meant that Oakland would be moving Gene Tenace from first base back behind the plate, and Joe Rudi from left field to first base, as owner Charlie O. Finley wasn't about to negotiate with Duncan.

A solution presented itself when the Indians, who needed major help in the outfield, dangled talented but injured catcher Ray Fosse in front of Finley. So the A's fixed three problems in one deal - moving Duncan, moving Hendrick, and getting a starting catcher. From the Tribe's standpoint, they'd be getting a more reliable starter, as well as a talented outfielder in Hendrick. During the offseason they had dealt Graig Nettles to New York for a package including outfielders Charlie Spikes and Rusty Torres, moving right fielder Buddy Bell to third base, his natural position. That settled the corners, but the Indians still needed a center fielder, as last year's starter, Del Unser had been a disaster, hitting just .238/.288/.277. Acquiring Hendrick solved that problem. That deal would be one of the more astute trades of the decade.

Hendrick was nicknamed "Silent George" because he didn't talk to the media. That, along with incidents where he didn't give his all, got him a reputation as a malcontent, though that didn't show in his relationships with his teammates. He did have problems with manager Ken Aspromonte, who fined him several times for not hustling. But regardless of what the public, the coaching staff, or the media thought of him, Hendrick could hit, and that's kept him in the majors for the next 16 seasons. He took advantage of his first starting job, hitting .268/.308/.452 with 21 homers for the Indians in a season where almost nothing else went right.

So what kind of hitter was Hendrick? He was more of a line drive hitter than you'd expect for someone who hit 20-25 homers a year, especially in that era. He initially averaged a 2.2-2.3 strikeouts per walk, but that ratio improved as he got more experience, and perhaps as opposing pitchers threw more carefully to him. He had OK range in center as a youngster, but was fairly quickly moved to a corner spot. He had the arm to play right, so that's where he'd play most often throughout his career.

He wasn't a flashy player, and that, along with some legitimate loafings, led to both fans and his coaches to criticize him. So even though he was an All-Star in both 1974 and 1975 (partly because of his play, but also probably because the Indians weren't exactly overflowing with talent elsewhere), he was never embraced by the fans or management. When Frank Robinson was hired in 1975, the situation got worse, though not initially. Hendrick was named co-captain by Robinson. Half-way through the '75 season, Hendrick moved to right field to make room for top prospect Rick Manning in center. Hendrick had his best season as an Indian in 1976; he hit .265/.323/.448 with 25 home runs and 20 doubles, but after the season the Indians had apparently had enough with his aloofness on the field.

The Indians traded Hendrick to San Diego in December 1977 for three players:

  • LF Johnny Grubb. He played very well for the Indians, though he was hurt for much of 1978. The Indians dealt him (because of his pending free agency) to the Rangers in August 1979 for two players who wouldn't play a major-league game for the Indians. Grubb would be a productive player until 1986.
  • C Fred Kendall. The Indians seemed at the time to not be able to hold onto good catching prospects, as they had traded both Alan Ashby and Rick Cerone in the previous 12 months. So Kendall would be the Tribe's starting in 1978, but would be dealt to Boston with Dennis Eckersley after the season.
  • IF Hector Torres wouldn't play a game with the Indians, as he would be dealt to Toronto in order to re-acquire John Lowenstein.

Meanwhile Hendrick had a breakout season with the Padres in 1977, but he was dealt again the following season to St. Louis. It was with the Cardinals that Hendrick thrived. He and manager Whitey Herzogg came to a quick understanding regarding his hustle, and Hendrick quickly became one of the best outfielders in the National League. He was a key player in the Cardinals' 1982 Championship run, and remain in St. Louis until 1984. He was dealt to Pittsburgh for John Tudor, and then dealt to the Angels the following year. He retired after the 1988 season.

Indians Career Stats

1973 23 CLE AL 113 473 440 64 118 18 0 21 61 7 6 25 71 .268 .308 .452 .760 111 199 *8/9
1974 24 CLE AL 139 534 495 65 138 23 1 19 67 6 4 33 73 .279 .322 .444 .767 120 220 *8/D7 AS
1975 25 CLE AL 145 614 561 82 145 21 2 24 86 6 7 40 78 .258 .304 .431 .735 107 242 *89/7 AS
1976 26 CLE AL 149 612 551 72 146 20 3 25 81 4 4 51 82 .265 .323 .448 .771 127 247 *78/D9
CLE (4 yrs) 546 2233 2047 283 547 82 6 89 295 23 21 149 304 .267 .314 .444 .758 116 908
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/20/2012.

Selected Awards/Leaders

AL All-Star: 1975, 1976

AL Slugging %: 10th, 1976

AL Home Runs: 10th, 1975; 4th, 1976