Jim Henneman is still the most interesting man in the Orioles' press box - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Jim Henneman is still the most interesting man in the Orioles’ press box

Photo credit: Craig Heist

The most interesting man in the press box fingered the Orioles’ giveaway cap. “I bet I’m the only one in here who saw them play,” he said. Jim Henneman was holding the Baltimore Elite (pronounced E-Light) Giants cap that the Orioles gave away last weekend.

As a youngster, Henneman rode his bicycle to watch the Negro League team play at Bugle Field, which was on the corner of Federal Street and Edison Highway. The baseball-crazed Henneman, who grew up 3 ½ blocks from Memorial Stadium, wanted to watch some baseball when the Orioles—the International League version–were out of town.

He couldn’t get enough of baseball then, and he can’t get enough of it now.

Henneman, now 85, is a regular presence in the Oriole Park at Camden Yards press box again after missing 2020 because of the pandemic, a hip replacement and multiple abdominal surgeries.

That ended his streak of watching Oriole games that stretches back even before Memorial Stadium.

A man of many talents, who for years showed up on Opening Day wearing his signature tuxedo with orange vest and bowtie, spent 2021’s opener watching from the stands instead of the press box.

Besides being a certified baseball expert, Henneman, who pitched against Al Kaline in high school and coached amateur teams that played at Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds, can also cook a tasty crab cake. The secret, he’s always said, is to use club cracker and mustard instead of mayonnaise.

These days, he’s still writing for Pressboxonline.com, and attended spring training. He’s also watching more baseball than ever.

“I was into it from an early age, and it has never really left me,” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Not only does he watch Orioles games he doesn’t attend on television but watches the Nationals and subscribes to both the MLB.TV and MiLB. TV packages for his computer.

“There’s so much more available. That’s the good news and the bad news, maybe,” he said.

It’s conceded that Henneman has watched more Oriole games than anyone else, though he offers that the former longtime trainer of the team, Richie Bancells, may have seen nearly as many. He estimates he’s seen somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 games as a fan, writer and official scorer.

Henneman was the principal official scorer at Oriole games from 1997-2019. Before that he was a writer for all three Baltimore daily newspapers, The News American, The Evening Sun, both of which no longer exist, and The Sun before leaving newspapers in 1995.

On April 15, 1954, Henneman, a Calvert Hall graduate, was getting ready to attend Loyola College and working as a clerk for the Baltimore City Police Department. He arranged for the day off to attend the city’s welcoming parade for the Orioles, who had taken a train from Detroit to Camden Station and, dressed in full uniform, rode up Charles Street for a welcoming parade.

He was one of 46,354 who watched as the Orioles beat the Chicago White Sox, 3-1. Clint Courtney and Vern Stephens hit home runs. Six days later, Henneman went to the first Orioles home night game. Bob Turley took a no-hitter into the ninth inning before Larry Doby hit a two-run home run to beat the Orioles.

In 1944, six days before his 9th birthday, Henneman was devastated when he found out that Oriole Park, which was not far from his home on Greenmount Avenue and 29th Street, had burned to the ground.

The minor league Orioles needed a new home. “They basically moved into my backyard. I spent a lot of time in my backyard in the years to come,” he said.

When Henneman was attending Loyola, he contracted rheumatic fever during his senior year, and was forced to withdraw. Through mutual friends, he met legendary News American sports editor John Steadman, who hired Henneman as a copy boy for $1 an hour.

“The whole idea was it was going to be a fill-in, and I’d go back to repeat my senior year,” Henneman said.

“Openings developed on the staff, and I could take it if I wanted,” he said. “I thought it through and thought, ‘I’m in a pretty good place in an area that I had a lot of interest in anyhow,’ so I stayed. I never did finish my degree, which I’ve always regretted … It worked out OK.”

Henneman began by covering college football, basketball and lacrosse. When the NBA’s Chicago Zephyrs moved to Baltimore, he covered the newly named Bullets.

By that time, he’d done some baseball, stringing games for United Press International in 1959. “Five bucks a game. That was found money.” He also covered Roger Maris’ chase of Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1961.

“As hectic as it was in those days, it was nowhere near the kind of coverage that a normal series would get today,” he said. “It wasn’t so crowded that you couldn’t get within 15 feet of somebody. You were right next to them all the time.”

The next year, the All-Star Game came to the new D.C. Stadium. Henneman was in the National League clubhouse when Stan Musial walked over to President John F. Kennedy.

“He poked him in the chest and said, ‘They said you were too young to be president, and I was too old to play baseball. We showed them.’ I was within handshaking distance of both of them.”

By then, Henneman was The News American’s backup Oriole writer. In 1968, he accepted an offer to become the Bullets’ public relations director.

Those were great days for sports in Baltimore. The Orioles played in four World Series, the Colts in two Super Bowls, and the Bullets of Earl Monroe and Wes Unseld made it to the NBA finals.

Henneman, who got a sizable pay increase to work in PR, enjoyed his time with the Bullets.

“That five-year investment was worth getting to know Unseld as a person,” Henneman said. “He was a terrific human being. I had great rapport with him because we worked pretty closely together, me doing PR and him doing a lot of appearances for us. He was great in that regard. I got to know him and know what kind of person he was, and that’s one of the great rewards of my career.”

When the Bullets left Baltimore for Landover, Henneman returned to The News American as the Orioles’ beat writer “at a hefty pay cut, I might add. It was worth it.”

Henneman, already had relationships with Earl Weaver and Jim Palmer. Palmer, Frank Robinson and Don Buford were regulars at Bullets games.

He ended up covering the Orioles for The News American before leaving for The Evening Sun in 1980 and The Sun until 1995.

Covering teams is far different than it was in Henneman’s time.

“It’s a completely different business today than when I did it,” Henneman said. “I’m not sure I could deal with it the way you guys deal with it today.

“I’m a newspaper guy and have been since I was a kid, and I still have a hard time when I pick up the paper and realize I’m reading something I already read online, and I have to admit, it’s a little disappointing. It irritates me when I pick up the paper, and I’ve already read this.”

Henneman left newspapers around the time the Ravens came to town, and he did some Colts coverage. He was the ghostwriter for columns from former Colts Artie Donovan and Buddy Young as well as for the Colts’ star of home games.

“I would have three bylines a week. None of them were under my name,” he said.

Henneman is credited with the coining the “reverse lock.” That’s when a team that’s heavily favored is a lock to lose.

In 1987, former Oriole Dennis Martinez had just returned to the majors with the Montreal Expos, and he faced the acclaimed Dwight Gooden and the reigning World Series champion New York Mets. Martinez shut out Gooden and the Mets on three hits.

“I think the first phrase that I ever used was ‘bet the farm in reverse.’ I didn’t actually say ‘reverse lock,’ but ‘bet the farm in reverse’ was [the precursor] of the reverse lock.”

The father of four, grandfather of 10 and great-grandfather of four, has time for thought these days.

“There are a lot of things that you get to reflect back on. People that are old enough to be my kids or grandkids, they ask you. When I look at it from that standpoint, it’s neat to be able to go back and maybe answer a question that somebody else wouldn’t be able to answer because you’ve been around long enough.

“You don’t like to dwell on it, but the bottom line is, when Memorial Stadium closed [in 1991], there was somebody there from every era, every year that that stadium was in existence. I remember at the time saying, ‘You can’t do that at Yankee Stadium. You can’t do that at Fenway. You can’t do that at Wrigley Field. You can’t do that at Tiger Stadium.’

“Sooner or later, there’s not going to be a time, somewhere in the not-too-distant future there won’t be somebody around who can say, ‘I was at the first game’ or ‘I was at the parade.’

“It makes you stop and think. It’s a privilege and, I don’t like to look at it that way, but it’s also a little bit of a curse, too, because you just know you’re getting older.”

Note: Orioles outfielder Anthony Santander, who’s on the 10-day injured list because of a sprained left ankle, will begin a rehab assignment at Double-A Bowie. He’ll play the outfield and be the designated hitter.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. Pure_Positive_PJs

    May 14, 2021 at 7:19 am

    Minors watch:

    Patrick Dorian AA is batting 0.417 with 4 homers.

    Brett Cumberland AAA is heating up batting 0.296 and hit his 2nd HR yesterday.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      May 14, 2021 at 8:54 am

      You have absolutely no class. A child.

      • NoClassChild

        May 14, 2021 at 2:12 pm

        BRR I am very, very sorry that I don’t know who Jim Henneman is and don’t have much interest in him. Please accept my heart felt apologies for negatively affecting your sensibilities this morning.

  2. Pure_Positive_PJs

    May 14, 2021 at 7:22 am

    For you Mariners fans:

    Kelenic 0-4 with 1 K

    Gilbert 4 IP 4ER 2HR allowed in loss

  3. CalsPals

    May 14, 2021 at 7:46 am

    Great story Rich, thanks for sharing a classy story…go O’s…

  4. Boog Robinson Robinson

    May 14, 2021 at 8:54 am

    Nice piece Rich. I don’t personally recall Mr. Henneman’s work, perhaps not being a local and all. What a life this man seems to have lead, and the things he must have witnessed, and the people he has known .. truly wonderful.

    • Jack Gibbons

      May 14, 2021 at 9:40 am

      Ken, Thank you for your gracious response. Jim’s perspective on Wes Unseld, who truly was kind, gentle and giving, reflects the perspective he has had in life. Jim not only has seen more Oriole games than anyone else, he SEES the game in a way that players, coaches and managers appreciate. I remember watching one Oriole game with him when the visiting team had runners on first and second with one out, and a ball was hit to the Orioles’ third baseman. I don’t remember which one it was — it was after Brooks and DeCinces — but the third baseman took a couple of steps to his right to get the force at third and then threw to first, which was late by a step. The opponents went on to have a big inning. When I said something to Jim about the pitcher, Jim said the key play was when the third baseman didn’t throw to second to start what would have been an easier double play, and would have ended the inning. He knows how the game should be played, which is why Earl Weaver loved to talk with him. Jim isn’t a student of the game, he’s a professor.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        May 14, 2021 at 6:50 pm

        Thanks Jack. I’ll post this directly towards you because Dubroff scoffs at the idea, but in reading about Jim Henneman today, it occurred to me that it may just be possible to be a sports writer AND a fan of the team. Seems as though Henneman WAS an Orioles fan first and foremost. Rich tells me that he’s a fan of the game, but not of any one team. Something about the 1st rule of sports-writer/journalism school and professionalism. I certainly don’t doubt him, but I don’t quite understand how that can be 100% possible.

        Do you have a take on that?

        • Jack Gibbons

          May 14, 2021 at 8:57 pm

          Ken, You raise a great point, and I appreciate your perspective. In 1966, when Frank Robinson came to the Orioles, I became a huge fan of Robinson, in particular, and the Orioles. I was a sophomore in high school, and had pride in the home team. Later, when John Steadman offered me a sportswriting position with The News American, it was drilled into me that there’s no cheering in the press box, or anywhere else on the job. That didn’t mean I didn’t care about the Orioles, but it couldn’t be reflected in my reporting. When Jerry Claiborne became the Maryland football coach, he told me that the media in Kentucky and Alabama were fans of the teams they covered. I told him that he wouldn’t find that with the Baltimore-Washington media but that, hopefully, the coverage of him and his team would be fair. Objectivity and subjectivity can become blurred, but those who cover teams are expected to be objective, even when it comes to teams they grew up cheering for.

          • Boog Robinson Robinson

            May 15, 2021 at 11:18 am

            Thanks for your perspective Jack. So it CAN be done ‘eh? LOL

            Ya’ll do a great job here at BB.com. I’ve enjoyed it from day 1.

  5. Nellie

    May 14, 2021 at 9:56 am

    What a wonderful column about Jim Henneman. Like most of us on this site, Jim loves baseball and especially our O’s. Thank you Rich.

    Baltimore has been blessed with exceptional sports writers over the years. Many have moved on to the national level and continue to excel.

    Moving to Baltimore in 1986 so I could be closer to the action on the field, I had the good fortune to develop a friendship with longtime writers Bob Maisel and Bill Tanton. Like Jim, they were excellent scribes and terrific gentleman. I hope these words find all three of them in good health and spirit.

  6. Olney Ogre

    May 14, 2021 at 10:14 am

    Thank you for the great story about Jim Henneman. I’ve been searching for his bylines for more than 55 years. I loved the detailed info, stats, perspective that he published while with the Bullets, an era when there were only 8 teams and little tv coverage. I always admired his work as official scorekeeper of MLB games, that must be one of the greatest jobs in the world. I will keep looking for him in Baltimore Baseball.com

  7. willmiranda

    May 14, 2021 at 12:14 pm

    Great stuff on Henneman. My only quibble is that I think he can stop beating himself up about not finishing that college degree. Loyola should give him an honorary doctorate.

  8. Birdman

    May 14, 2021 at 1:11 pm

    Enjoyed the article about Jim Henneman. He sounds like a great guy, who has had a very accomplished career. And I think it’s really cool that he coached teams at Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds.

  9. dlgruber1

    May 14, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    Great article Rich, there are some people who I’d love to just sit down and watch an entire game with at the ballpark. He’s one of them. What a pleasure that would be. I’d be sure to ask him how he fared against Kaline.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 14, 2021 at 2:41 pm

      If you look back in the archives, you can find my interview with Jim when Kaline died last year, Dave.

  10. NoClassChild

    May 14, 2021 at 4:33 pm

    I think this article/post would have been better positioned under Calling the Pen.

    Journalism is a profession in crisis due to lack of integrity, not always being truthful, not readily admitting publishing a mistake, stealth edits, self-promotion, and a very large amount of self-admiration IMO. Sports journalists unfortunately are not much different than journalists covering subjects such as politics or entertainment – sports journalists actually face a situation other types of journalists may not face IMO, they may be weary of asking hard questions because it might jeopardize their access to the team they are covering and access is the main special thing they have again IMO (I personally don’t see great writing talents going to waste in sports journalists).

    I read a Henneman article this afternoon and it was as much about Henneman himself as it was about the subject of his article IMO, a la “I was a handshake away” from JFK. So go on with the sports journalists love-in yesterday and today with nice fawning and flattering from BB readership…don’t cross BRR, drink your dang Pepsi sheeple readers!

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      May 14, 2021 at 5:20 pm

      Didn’t you take the high road by swearing off baseball and bidding all adieu after the Manfred/Ga thing over a month ago? Yet here you are speaking of others lack of integrity. Kind of ironic isn’t it? Not commenting on the article’s content other than to say it doesn’t interest you before attacking the writer and the profession in general. Who are you trying to impress? I’ll give you credit, you can write pretty well when you want to, but sonny boy, let me clue you in, you’re nothing special and you’re not nearly as smart or witty as you obviously see yourself.

      You lack class and any semblence of integrity. I think it’s time to go upstairs. Your Mom says the meatloaf is ready.

      And yeah, Drink Pepsi

    • CalsPals

      May 14, 2021 at 6:05 pm

      :)…go O’s…

    • dlgruber1

      May 14, 2021 at 6:53 pm

      NCC, or whatever you’re going by now, I believe you simply have a different way of looking at things than some others do. I don’t believe that by saying “I was a handshake away” was his way of inserting himself, it was just letting the reader know what he saw. If he’d left that point out of the story if wouldn’t have nearly as fascinating, to me anyway. I’m sure if Mr. Henneman wanted to he could’ve name dropped more than he ever would have wanted to. The people he met and got to know and work with I would’ve found to be must read material. It’s all in the readers way of looking at his writings I guess. Most of us will NEVER interact with the people we read about so I enjoy reading about the anecdotes as much as I do about the stories they’re included in.

  11. BrettCumberlandIsAwesome-AndYouKnowIt!

    May 14, 2021 at 4:36 pm

    And furthermore, no way in the world did John Means’ no hitter change the national baseball conversation, sorry that’s some hyperbole there, but at least it was in Calling the Pen

  12. Bhoffman1

    May 14, 2021 at 6:55 pm

    As Freddy Galvis ever batted fourth in his career before. Im starting to miss the zombie man Davis

  13. cedar

    May 14, 2021 at 7:13 pm

    Rich – thank you for back to back posts on two great writers of the sport. I remember many bylines from Boswell and Henneman growing up and into my elder years. I know Boswell has sworn off reporting on the O’s but maybe in some not too distant future each might contribute a memory or story in “Call to the Pen.”

  14. Massmonster

    May 14, 2021 at 10:07 pm

    Both are iconic sports writers with a emphasis on baseball. Getting back to BB. how long can the O’s keep on giving Franko at bats – even he seems to be embarrassed by his truly horrendous at- bats

  15. JDs cup of coffee

    May 15, 2021 at 3:01 am

    Very interesting read. As a kid born in the 1980’s to a non-sports family, I learned mostly from sportswriters, radio announcers, and the Baltimore County Public Library. Everyone spoke respectfully of Henneman but facts and reasons were often left unsaid–taken for granted as if everyone knew. And so I confused him for a relief pitcher on the Tigers.

    This past year I became interested in old Baltimore baseball. Al Kaline had just died and I went looking for the ballfields he would have played on–the only ballfields I would visit in 2020. Then I looked for the old stadiums, or rather, their locations, and many other points of interest, motivated in part by Delise’s 1890’s piece.

    I’m excited to know Henneman is a bridge to some of those different eras. Hoping to find more that he’s said about pre-1954. He may have memories of Leon Day or Campanella. He could have talked to older people who saw John McGraw or Ruth just as I can still talk to people who saw Brooks or Boog.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 15, 2021 at 7:32 am

      Thank you for this.

    • CalsPals

      May 15, 2021 at 8:06 am

      Cool story JD, thx for sharing…go O’s…

You must be logged in to post a comment Login or Register Here

Leave a Reply

To Top