October 3, 2014
October 17, 1912 – It’s the bottom of the 7th with the New York Giants leading 1-0 in the 8th game of the World Series at Fenway Park. With one out and a man on second, 24-year-old Boston Red Sox sub Olaf Henriksen steps up to the plate. He takes 2 strikes and 2 balls. On the 5th pitch he knocks a double down the left field line, tying the game. The Boston Red Sox would go on the win the 10-inning game and become 1912 World Series Champs thanks in part to “Hennie’s” clutch play.
“Pinch hit hero mobbed by rabid Red Sox enthusiasts” was the sub-headline of the Boston Globe the next day. Henriksen had become an instant hero.
This was just one of the sensational games that Olaf Henriksen played during his 6-year baseball career. The only Danish-born person (as of 2010) to ever play Major League baseball, Henriksen participated in two more World Series wins for the Red Sox in 1915 and 1916, even pinch-hitting for teammate Babe Ruth (much to The Great Bambino’s chagrin).
With the MLB playoffs officially kicking off this week, and so many baseball fans out there (including Mormor and some of her friends at The Danish Home), it is only fitting that I pay homage to the most famous Danish-born baseball player in the Majors.
Olaf Henriksen was born in Kirkerup, Denmark (which is now part of the town of Roskilde) on April 26, 1888. He was the third of nine children born to Jens and Anna Henriksen. Soon after his birth the family immigrated to the United States, landing in New York and finally settling in Canton, Massachusetts, a town south of Boston, where young Olaf and his siblings were raised.
When he was 16 Olaf played for a local team and was described as a “star player” and “a standout”. He impressed a scout for a minor league team in 1908 and was quickly signed to his first professional baseball contract at the conclusion of the season. Two years later, on August 10, 1910, he was picked up by the Boston Red Sox. That night he hopped a train to Boston and made his major-league debut the very next day, playing both ends of a doubleheader.
Olaf and his wife Mary, known as Mamie, had two children. Peter Francis was born in April of 1910, and Catherine was born on September 1916.
On May 2, 1962 at the age of 74 Olaf attended a 50th reunion at Fenway Park with remaining members of the 1912 team to celebrate the anniversary of their World Series championship. Six months later, on October 17th, he passed away from lung cancer.
Of the 1912 World Series, the 1913 Spalding’s Official Baseball Guide said, “No individual, whether player, manager, owner, critic or spectator, who went through the world’s series of 1912 ever will forget it. There never was another like it. Years may elapse before there shall be a similar series and it may be that the next to come will be equally sensational, perhaps more so.”
What do you love most about baseball? Take a look at our Pinterest board Summer Pastimes to see more of Olaf Henriksen and other wonderful baseball moments, then leave a comment below!