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Jim Rice fondly recalls Dave Henderson’s enthusiasm for game

Dave Henderson (left) in the 1986 playoffs.Globe file photo/HANDOUT PHOTO

When Jim Rice remembers Dave Henderson, it’s not for dramatic home runs in the playoffs. It’s for that wide, gap-toothed smile.

“People talk about Ken Griffey Jr. and how he smiled on the field. Dave was that way all the time,” Rice said. “If he was 10 for 10 or 0 for 15, you didn’t know it. He was the same guy all the time. His release was to play baseball and he had so much fun doing it.”

Henderson, 57, died on Sunday of a heart attack, three months after undergoing a kidney transplant.

Henderson played for five teams during his 14-year career, including the Red Sox for parts of the 1986 and ’87 seasons. Rice was a teammate and recalled those days fondly on Monday when he reached out to a reporter.

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“What charisma Dave had,” Rice said. “He had so much raw talent, all of the tools. But what made him special was he was so much fun to be around and he played the game like he was a kid.”

Henderson helped lift the Sox to the 1986 World Series, keeping the team alive in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series against the California Angels. He hit a memorable ninth-inning home run to bring the Sox back, then won the game with a sacrifice fly in extra innings.

“I love seeing that video,” Rice said. “What a lot of people don’t know is Dave twisted his ankle when he jumped up celebrating the home run on his way to first. That always made me laugh. But that was Dave, he loved it.”

Rice always made sure to reconnect with Henderson when they crossed paths later in life. Rice, a Hall of Famer, played for the Sox his entire career. But he considered Henderson part of the family.

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“He always was part of the Red Sox and he always will be,” Rice said. “That ’86 season was something none of us will forget. I’m glad I played with him and I’ll miss him.”


Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.