Monday, September 28, 2009

My favorite Mark Hendrickson story

Former Ray Mark Hendrickson is on the hill tonight for the Orioles, and that calls to mind my favorite Mark Hendrickson story.

My second-favorite was waiting out an eight-hour rain delay at Tampa International Airport inside the same air side terminal as the big, 6-foot-9 lefty. It was during February a couple of years back, and the bay area was pounded by the most rain it received in 100 years.

I began talking to Hendrickson, who asked me not to mention anything about him pitching for the Rays lest he be bombarded by autograph request by the rest of the stranded passengers. No problem. It's not like me to cause waves.

I spent the next four hours or so walking around the airport when I again bumped into Henderickson. He told me no one had asked him for an autograph, which had him wondering: Was he going unnoticed? Or, did no one care?

Anyway, that's my No. 2 Mark Hendrickson story.

Here's No. 1.

Hendrickson joined the Rays in 2004, and I spoke to him early in camp. Naturally, we talked about his days in the NBA. Naturally, the subject of Michael Jordan came up.

Hendrickson said he played against Jordan but never guarded him, which I thought was odd. Didn't Jordan drive the lane on Hendrickson at least once?

Nope, Hendrickson said.

OK. Whatever.

Sometime later I was at the Red Barn Flea Market, where I bought a rather large bookcase for my house. It was so large I couldn't fit it into my car, so I called Tom O'Neill, the Herald's photo editor at the time, and asked if Tom could duck out of the office for a few minutes and helped me get this bookcase home. Tom had a pick-up truck, you see.

Tom said to give him 15, 20 minutes.

I killed time in the Red Barn's book store, where I picked up a book of Sports Illustrated photos. The photographers at the paper had a small library of such books, and I figured it was the least I could do for Tom.

As I waited in the parking lot, I glanced at the book's cover, which showed MJ dunking over some hapless defender. I couldn't quiet make out the defender's face, but I could see the last letters of the his last name. They spelled "rickson."

I looked closer at the face.

Was it ... ?

Why yes, it was.

Michael Jordan throwing one down over Mark Hendrickson.

I never asked Hendrickson why he wouldn't admit to that. What the heck. It's not like Hendrickson was the only NBA player to be dunked on by MJ.

Now, the only major leaguer pitcher? Sure.

Still, no shame in that.

No comments: