1968 TOPPS BOB HENDLEY
If Bob Hendley is remembered in baseball today, it’s for throwing a one-hitter in a game that Sandy Koufax pitched a perfect game. The only run scored in the game was an unearned one, making it a perfect representation of the deadball 1960s.
But what makes him a subject of the Card of the Week series is what’s going on in his baseball card. Or, rather, the back of the card. The text on the card states, “The fireballing southpaw is completely recovered from the arm trouble which had plagued him for the past two seasons.”
The Mets acquired Hendley in mid-1967 and he pitched in 15 games, making 13 starts. Hendley put up a 99 ERA+, which was the sixth-best mark on the staff. You would think a team that went 61-101 in 1967 would have room for a league-average lefty in their rotation the following season. Especially one that was now over earlier arm troubles.
Instead, Hendley spent the entire year in Triple-A.
After 20 different pitchers made starts for the 1967 Mets, new manager Gil Hodges used only 10 in 1968. Still, Al Jackson made nine starts with an 82 ERA+ on the year, while Danny Frisella made four starts and finished with a 78 ERA+. Even Les Rohr got a start. But Hendley had to watch five pitching teammates get the call from Triple-A to the Mets while he hung out in Jacksonville (the last year before the Mets’ Triple- affiliate became Tidewater) with Larry Bearnarth wondering what they had to do to get in the club’s good graces again.
Things didn’t get better in 1969, as Hendley spent all season in Tidewater and didn’t pitch as well as he did the year before. Hendley retired following the ’69 season. He returned to Georgia and became a high school coach.
Longtime Mets beat writer Marty Noble wrote a piece on the Hendley-Koufax game. At the end, he included this information about Hendley:
Gregg Doyel, one of the scholastic pitchers Hendley coached, became a sportswriter and eventually learned, via the board game Trivial Pursuit, of his coach’s accomplishments. Hendley never had told his players of his baseball past.
Writing for CBSSports.com, Doyel blew Hendley’s cover in a column on April 30, 2015, the coach’s 75th birthday.
His column ended thusly: “Today he turns 75. Happy birthday, coach Hendley. You never told us who you were. And what a great lesson that is.”
Hendley has regained a small measure of celebrity. A number of his former players contacted him after Doyel’s story appeared. He received more than the normal number of birthday cards, including one from Sandy Koufax. “He actually sent me a card,” Hendley said. “What a nice man!”
6 comments on “Mets Card of the Week: 1968 Bob Hendley”
I bought my first pack of baseball cards in 1968. A nickel a pack. A hard stick of gum and 10 cards. I was hooked.
I collected most of the 69 set and kept it in a paper shopping bag. Had them untilmy mother threw the bag out. I stilling from that 53 years later. I have been recollecting the 69 set and have about 75 percent of the set. I love those cards.
Thanks for bringing back the memory of 1968.
Great post Brian.
As an avid card collector, I Missed card of the week ! Glad it’s back ….
Mike – I sent you an email
JFA – Thanks for the kind words!
jsuss – Thanks! What years do you collect? I’ve got dupes from the 60s-70s-80s – maybe we can trade.
I collect all years from ‘62 on . U looking for anything in particular?
All 70s Kellogg’s sets
Second Topps sets from 68-71 and 73