During my early months as the Orioles’ beat writer for the Baltimore Sun and a new citizen of Maryland, I traveled to Kansas City to open the 1990 season along with several other members of the local media.
It was not the first time I had met Jim Henneman, but it was the first time I had traveled with him and was pretty stoked when he organized a dinner at a restaurant on the other side of the Kansas border.
The place, he promised, served the best “bald shrimp” he had ever tasted, which sounded good to me even though I was curious what exactly a “bald” shrimp was and how could anything that comes out of the ocean be a delicacy in the most Midwestern of Midwestern states.
Turned out, I was so mentally caught up in trying to figure out if there were any species of shrimp that actually had hair that I didn’t realize Jim was simply speaking his native language until the waiter brought out – and I’m not making any of this up – several large toy dump trucks full of boiled shrimp.
The shrimp really was great and the meal was as unique as Baltimore’s best-loved sportswriter. “Henny” has been involved in Baltimore sports, and particularly baseball, for longer than I have been on this earth, and I’m 68 years old.
He attended baseball games in Baltimore well before the big league Orioles franchise landed in 1954, including those of both the International League Orioles and the Negro League Baltimore Elite Giants. He played baseball, coached baseball and, most notably, covered the Orioles for the defunct Baltimore News American and Evening Sun before finishing his newspaper career at The (Morning) Sun in 1995 … and he’s still going strong at 88.
He is so revered by his colleagues and the team that the O’s honored him on Tuesday by dedicating the press box at Oriole Park in his honor.
Who better? Henneman has been a fixture there since the ballpark opened in 1992 and worked on the press level both as a full-time journalist and – post-retirement – as principal official scorer from1997 to 2019. He still keeps a hand in the game as a columnist for PressBoxOnline.com.
I’m particularly glad the Orioles saw fit to honor Jim because there is so much baseball knowledge behind his folksy charm, and I’ve tapped it on more occasions than I can count in 35-plus years of friendship.
To paraphrase the tribute everyone rightfully applied to O’s legend Brooks Robinson upon his recent passing, Henneman is a great baseball writer and an even better guy.
In my first Orioles spring training, my two very young children glommed onto him during regular dinners at a local Sarasota hangout called Captain Kirk’s and – now 39 and 35 – still refer to him as “Uncle Henny.” And all these years later, it isn’t really spring training until he shows up at the Ed Smith Stadium complex.
Not that Henny was a journalistic one-trick pony. Early in his sports writing career, he took a five-year detour to become the public relations director with the NBA’s Baltimore Bullets, that team now known as the Washington Wizards. He returned to baseball writing in the early 1970s and never looked back.
It’s fair to say that no one has been present for more Orioles games and now “Uncle Henny” will be in the press box forever.