In Memory of Bill Henry

Pasadena community loses a sports legend: Bill Henry dead at 86
Pasadena (TX) Citizen
April 16, 2014

(c) Topps Baseball

Bill Henry, who starred on Pasadena High's state championship basketball team in 1946 before embarking on a 16-year career as a major-league pitcher, passed away last Friday (April 11) in Round Rock.

Henry, 86, pitched for six big-league teams, most notably the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds. While with the Reds, he pitched in the 1960 All-Game and in the 1961 World Series.

Two years ago, he was among the first group of former Pasadena ISD athletes and coaches to be inducted into the district's new Athletics Hall of Fame.

Henry, who lived in Deer Park, had planned to attend the Hall of Fame's third annual induction banquet on Saturday and the grand opening of the Hall of Fame Museum held in conjunction with the banquet. He suffered a heart episode last week and died shortly after being transported to a medical facility in Round Rock.

A moment of silence was held at the banquet in Henry's honor.

As a Pasadena High senior in 1946, Henry earned basketball all-state honors while helping lead the Eagles to the state championship - the only state title ever won by a Pasadena ISD squad in basketball, football or baseball.

After high school, he turned his attention to baseball, a sport not offered in most Texas high schools at the time. He earned a spot on the University of Houston's first baseball team and became the first UH baseball product ever to reach the major leagues.

A tall left-hander, Henry broke in with the Boston Red Sox and eventually developed into a relief specialist. With the Cubs in 1959, he enjoyed one of the best seasons of any reliever in the 1950s. He led the National League with 65 appearances, posted a 9-8 record with 12 saves and a dazzling 2.63 ERA.

Traded to the Reds that winter, Henry was named to the National League All-Star team in 1960. In the 1961 World Series, he made two relief appearances for the Reds against the New York Yankees, striking out baseball's new home-run record-holder, Roger Maris, in one of them. The Reds lost the Series in five games.

For his career, Henry appeared in 527 games, compiled 90 saves and posted an ERA of 3.26.

He also pitched for the San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros. He appeared in three games for the Astros, all in 1969, before deciding to retire.

Henry is survived by his wife of 69 years, Betty Lou Sabo-Henry; his four sons: Charlie, Jack, Billy and Mark; his grandchildren: Brian, Matt, Sarah and Gus; and a brother, Jack.

Henry was born Oct. 15, 1927, in Alice. After his retirement from baseball, he worked for the Houston Boatmen, ILA Local #1438.

A public viewing is scheduled for Thursday, April 17, from 5-8 p.m. at the Pasadena Funeral Home, 2203 Pasadena Blvd. A funeral service is scheduled for Friday at 1 p.m. at the Pasadena Funeral Chapel.

A graveside service and internment will follow at South Park Cemetery, 1310 N. Main, in Pearland.

Obituary Uncovers Baseball Imposter
Associated Press
September 5, 2007

LAKELAND, Fla., Sept. 5 (AP) - Everyone here knew Bill Henry as an old major league pitcher - at church, around the golf course and certainly at home.

The 83-year-old Henry did not like to boast, but he had stories. The boys at The 19th Hole lounge at the golf course, where the 6-foot-2 left-handed Henry retired, had to pry for nostalgia, but Henry knew his stuff - his appearance in the 1961 World Series with the Cincinnati Reds, the 1960 All-Star Game selection, the 16 seasons in the majors.

But it turned out the Lakeland, Fla., man was not the Bill Henry who played major league ball, and the tales he spun were unraveling a week after his death following a heart attack.

The former reliever by the same name is alive and well in Texas - stunned someone had claimed his accomplishments for decades. The 79-year-old Henry learned of the impostor after The Associated Press distributed a short obituary. The death - and the bogus history - originally was reported in The Ledger, the local newspaper.

"I really can't understand why a man would do something like that," said the real pitcher. "To impress his family or his neighbors?"

The Lakeland man's family was not sure when the deception began. His widow, Elizabeth Jean Henry, said the couple met more than two decades ago in Michigan. His third wife, she said she never met her husband's two children, who are both dead.

She said he did not mention right away that he was a former major leaguer, but she had no reason to doubt him when it came up. Elizabeth Henry said she did not have any memorabilia aside from a few baseball cards - no rings, no trophies, no photos. But she said she and his stepchildren still believed he played at least some level of minor league ball.

"He told me once he could hear his father when he was pitching a game," Elizabeth Henry said. "He didn't tell me what game, but he said he could hear his father in the stands calling his name. I don't think he lied about all that."

The couple moved here 19 years ago after he retired as a salesman, and he was a staple at the Sand Piper Golf and Country Club. He met one of his closest friends there, a former semipro pitcher named Bob McHenry who also never doubted him.

McHenry said he played for a team fielded by RCA several decades ago. The two even gave a biannual lecture called "Baseball, Humor and Society" at Florida Southern College.

"To me there were two relievers at that time - Joe Page for the Yankees and Bill Henry for the Cincinnati Reds," McHenry said. "It was about the early '50s that relieving became a big thing in the majors, and so I could accept Bill as that person.

"He knew the names,"McHenry said. "He and I had a lot of opportunities to talk about people in the '40s, '50s, '60s. He knew his stuff."

And the real Bill Henry featured on the baseball cards looked just like the one in Lakeland. "It's creepy striking - the nose, the face, the squinty eyes," said Jeanine Hill-Cole, the wife of Henry's stepson David Cole. "I mean, I'm still here looking at the picture we put in for his obituary, and you'd swear that it was the same man."

There were differences, however. The pitcher's middle name is Rodman, while the Florida man's middle name was Clarence. The two also had different dates and cities of birth. The Lakeland man had explained to family and friends that the different birth dates were a deliberate deception when he was a prospect to make scouts think he was younger.

Skip Perez, The Ledger's executive editor, said the newspaper said it should have done a better job confirming whether the local man's tales were true.

"There had been some discussion over the years about doing a story about him," Perez said. "One of our staff writers, I think, was a member of the same church. You know, in a way I wish we had done the darn story 10 years ago or whatever, because hopefully we would have checked or made a call or something."

The Lakeland family members said they would want Bill Henry in Texas credited with the 46-50 lifetime record, All-Star Game selection and World Series appearance he earned. The former major leaguer, still working for a mooring company in Houston, said he did not mind.

"It doesn't bother me at all," he said.