Toronto Blue Jays: Tom Henke the original Ricky Vaughn

Tom Henke of the Toronto Blue Jays was coming out of the bullpen, glasses and all, closing the door on opponents, years before Ricky Vaughn was.

I wonder if the Charlie Sheen character from the movie ‘Major League’ was somehow based on former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Tom Henke. No, the “Wild Thing” mantra does not fit, but the skull and crossbones on the reading glasses do.

Tom Henke began his career in the Texas Rangers organization and they mismanaged his talents completely. Then the Blue Jays got ahold of him and enshrined him as the closer, laying the foundation for what would later be a trip to the World Series.

Known as “The Terminator,” Henke would come at hitters over the top, from three-quarters, or sidearm. He mixed up his deliveries and mixed up hitters, earning saves, and capturing the hearts of Jays fans.

Despite an 0-6 record in 1987 Henke was an All-Star and led the league with 34 saves. Beginning in 1988 he joined forces with Duane Ward to form a two-headed monster at the end of games. Ward was used for multiple-inning saves and Henke was brought in to nail down the one-inning saves.

The two continued to share save opportunities through the 1992 season when the Blue Jays made it to the World Series. Henke locked down 32 saves in the regular season and notched two more in the World Series as the Jays claimed their first title.

After eight years in the Blue Jays bullpen, Tom Henke was allowed to leave after the 1992 season as a free agent. The Texas Rangers, realized what they had and misused, scooped him back up and he went on to save 40 games for them during the 1993 season.

Henke remains the all-time saves leader in Toronto Blue Jays history with 217 and was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011. And four years after debuting as the Blue Jays closer, the movie Major League debuted in theatres.