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Tommy Henrich dies at 96; was oldest living Yankee

The Yankees' Tommy Henrich, left, and pitcher Allie

The Yankees' Tommy Henrich, left, and pitcher Allie Reynolds after Game 1 of the 1949 World Series. Henrich, who won four World Series with the Yankees, died Tuesday at 96. (October 5, 1949) Photo Credit: AP

Tommy Henrich, the oldest living Yankee who won four World Series rings with the club, died Tuesday morning in Dayton, Ohio. He was 96.

Known as "Old Reliable" for his consistently clutch play, Henrich hit 183 home runs over his 11 seasons (1937 through 1942 and 1946 through 1950), and was a lifetime .282 hitter. Like many of his contemporaries, the outfielder missed considerable time because of World War II; he served in the U.S. Coast Guard from the fall of 1942 - he missed the Yankees' World Series - through 1945.

"Tommy was a darn good ballplayer and teammate," Yankees legend Yogi Berra said in a statement. "He always took being a Yankee to heart. He won a lot of championships and did whatever he could to help us win.

"When I came up in 1947, he taught me little nuances about playing the outfield. Being around Tommy made you feel good, whether playing cards or listening to him sing with that great voice. He was a proud man, and if you knew him, he made you proud too."

Added former Yankee Bobby Brown: "Tommy was a terrific player. What made him so special was that he always played well in big games. You get him in a close or important game and he would always show up ready to play. It seemed like he never made any mistakes in the outfield. He was a true professional and an ultimate Yankee."

In Game 1 of the 1949 World Series, Henrich hit the first-ever Fall Classic walk-off home run, going deep off Brooklyn's Don Newcombe in the bottom of the ninth to break a scoreless tie and give the Yankees an instant victory.

Yet, perhaps Henrich's most famous at-bat came when he didn't even hit the ball.

In the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 1941 World Series, Henrich struck out, seemingly ending the game. But Brooklyn catcher Mickey Owen dropped the third strike, and Henrich ran safely to first. The Yankees, given a new life, rallied to win the game and take a 3-1 lead in the series, which they eventually won.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, in a statement, called Henrich "truly one of my personal favorites."

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the oldest living Yankee is now Virgil Trucks, 92, who pitched 25 games for the 1958 Yankees.

New York Sports