Hometown Boston Red Sox Made History at Fenway Park
In the first year of Fenway Park, Olaf Henriksen helped the Boston Red Sox to the World Series crown.
Fenway Park must have looked pretty good to the small, speedy outfielder from Canton when it opened up 100 years ago this month.
As the 1912 Boston Red Sox team paraded around their new modern home, Olaf Henriksen was just in his second year in the major leagues, being used as a back-up to one of the greatest outfielders in baseball history
Henriksen lived in Canton, died in Norwood and was buried in Canton. In between, he became part of baseball history.
Who knew the 5-7, 155 pound outfielder was the verge on making baseball history?
First, there was a matter of his ancestry. Henriksen was born in 1888 in Kirkerup, Denmark, which was some how lost during the time he played with his teammate. The Danish-outfielder was actually nicknamed "The Swede" and referred to on his baseball card as "Viking descended."
Now, 100 years later, Henriksen is the only player from Denmark to play in the major league.
Before joining the Red Sox late in the 1911, Henriksen played in the New England Baseball League for Brockton, building a reputation for being a speedy runner. As a rookie, he showed promise as the 23-year-old lefthanded hitter, and thrower, batted .326 in 27 games.
Henriksen looked he was going to threaten Duffy Lewis for the starting left field job.
That didn't happen.
In 1912, Henriksen only played 11 times in the field. He had 72 plate appearances, getting 18 hits for a .321 average.
Through his career, Henriksen homered only once in 1914 and only drove in 78 runs. The most RBI he had was 13 in 1914, the same year he registered a career high of five stolen bases.
His career lasted seven seasons and he never played for another major league team.
When the Red Sox trained in Hot Springs in Arkansas, the Las Vegas of the day, you could not have gotten odds betting that Henriksen would be the player who would make history the fall of 1912.
That year, the Sox were the best team in the American League, winning the title and going on to play the powerhouse John McGraw-led New York Giants.
With the series going back-and-forth in a close affair, it came down to the eighth and final game.
In the seventh inning, Boston's player-manager Jake Stahl looked down his bench, needing someone to pitch-hit against the legendary Christy Mathewson, who had come in the second inning in relief.
Henriksen looked rusty and got behind 0-2 quickly and it looked like he was going back to the bench quickly. Instead, the pinch-hitter got the count to 2-2 before he slapped a single down the left field line, scoring Stahl with the tying run.
Boston went on to win the game and the series in extra innings and take the World Series title.
"If it hadn't been for his timely hit," wrote Red Sox captain Henie Wagner in the book, "Fall Classic," "...we might have been feeling like McGraw and Matty are feeling now. And there's an awful lot of difference in being a winner and being a loser."
Henriksen played in the 1915 and 1916 World Series, but never got another hit in three plate appearances.
He started with the team in 1917, appearing in 15 games before the Red Sox asked him to go back to the minors, but that wasn't an option for Henriksen. Instead, he opted to retire.
Next winter, the Brooklyn Dodgers were trying to sign Henriksen, but instead, he went to coaching as the manager of the Boston College baseball team.
When the Red Sox honored the 1911 team on the 50th anniversary in 1961, Henriksen was there with his former teammates.
A year later, Henriksen died on Oct. 17, 1962, in Norwood, 51 years and one day from the time when his hit put Boston on the top of the baseball world.