Most local baseball fans are familiar with the performance turned in by Macon native Bobby Hendley back in September of 1965, when he pitched a one-hitter for the Chicago Cubs and lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0 on an unearned run at Dodger Stadium.
That was the game, which some call the greatest ever pitching duel, where hall-of-fame pitcher Sandy Koufax one-upped Hendley, pitching a perfect game, the final of four no-nos he had in his illustrious career.
The New York chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America honored Hendley, Koufax and Dodgers announcer Vin Scully on Jan. 25 for that feat, presenting each of them with the Willie, Mickey and the Duke Award. It was the first time Hendley had ever met Koufax off the field.
What you might not know is that Koufax’s perfect game was the only time Hendley lost in four decisions to the Dodgers’ lefty. In fact, five days after that loss, Hendley and the Cubs defeated Koufax and the Dodgers 2-1 at Wrigley Field. Chicago outhit Los Angeles 4-3, meaning the cumulative totals for each team for the two games were two runs and four hits.
Hendley has lived in Macon his entire life, spending every offseason in the city when he played in the big leagues. He was a standout at Lanier, pitching the Poets to back-to-back GHSA Region 1-AAA championships. His high school record was 16-4, which included three no-hitters.
He signed collegiately with Georgia but soon after made the decision to turn pro, signing as a free agent with the Milwaukee Braves. He had a seven-year stay in the majors, pitching mainly for second-tier teams -- the Braves, San Francisco Giants, Cubs and New York Mets -- compiling a 48-52 record with a 3.97 ERA. He started out as a flame-throwing left-hander, but elbow problems, suffered in a three-year minor league career where he was an all-star each season, forced him to become more of a finesse pitcher relying on knuckle balls, off-speed pitches and slow curves.
In his first game in the big leagues, he beat the St. Louis Cardinals and hall of famer Bob Gibson, striking out another hall of famer, Stan “The Man” Musial, twice.
In addition to Musial, he faced all the big names of the 1960s, including Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Billy Williams (he was a teammate of all three of those hall-of-famers at one point) and Roberto Clemente, among others. But the man he had the most trouble with was the Philadelphia’s Richie Allen, who hit .634 against him.
In his big-league career as a batter, Hendley had 23 hits, which included two doubles and a home run. He remembers who the extra base hits came against. He got the doubles against hall of famer Don Drysdale and Bob Buhl, and the home run was served up by the Phillies’ Dallas Green.
Every offseason, while in professional baseball, he attended Mercer, where he graduated in 1970. His degree put him on a path to an ultra-successful coaching and teaching career at River North and Stratford. At River North, he produced four state championship teams, and then at Stratford, working with Bubba Adams and M.L. Clark, he was part of five state championship squads.
He was a GISA region coach of the year nine times, GISA state coach of the year on five occasions, and was part of 14 GISA region championships. In 2001, the baseball field at Stratford was named Bobby Hendley Field in his honor.
Hendley will be inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday night in ceremonies at City Auditorium. Joining him will be 1993 Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward of Florida State, Georgia running back Wilie McLendon, Georgia Tech football star Bill Fulcher, longtime Atlanta Braves executive John Schuerholz, former United States Golf Association president Reg Murphy, Georgia All-America gymnast Hope Spivey and a Georgia All-SEC basketball standout, the late Alec Kessler.
Contact Bobby Pope at firstname.lastname@example.org