George A. Henderson, longtime baseball coach at CCBC Essex and Orioles scout, dies

George A. Henderson, an award-winning Community College of Baltimore County Essex baseball coach who also co-founded the old Brooks Robinson Sporting Goods Inc., died of a stroke Saturday at his home in Cockeysville’s Springdale neighborhood. He was 89.

“George was a legendary coach during his years at Essex where he captured seven National Junior College Athletic Association Region XX crowns and was a seven-time coach of the year honoree,” said former 6th District Baltimore City Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi, whose friendship with Henderson dated back to their South Baltimore days.

“He was a tremendous coach who really knew more about baseball than anyone I’ve ever been around,” Mr. DiBlasi said. “He was a mentor to everyone who came through his program. He was personable and friendly, and just a great influence on thousands of baseball players.”

George Albert Henderson, son of George Reed Henderson, a World War I veteran and restaurant owner, and Marie Burlage Henderson, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised in scrappy South Baltimore where one of his baseball buddies was Al Kaline who later played right field for the Detroit Tigers during a Hall of Fame career.

Mr. Henderson’s coaching days began when he was a kid.

“Back in 1947 when I was 12 years old, I was running a softball team in the 10-12 league in South Baltimore,” he told The Evening Sun in 1980. “One of my players at that time was Al Kaline.”

After graduating in 1954 from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute where he played baseball he earned a bachelor’s degree from what is now Towson University in 1963.

He taught social studies at Catonsville Junior High School in Baltimore County before co-founding Brooks Robinson Sporting Goods with the Orioles star in the early 1960s.

Mr. Henderson later established A & A Athletic Lettering in Northeast Baltimore.

He coached amateur, semipro and college baseball in a career that spanned five decades, and was also an Orioles scout for decades.

He was a scout and coach for Johnny’s-Leone’s, a semipro baseball team, since its inception in the early 1950s, and for which Mr. Kaline had once played.

During the years he was with Johnny’s-Leone’s, they won 19 all-American national championships in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and 44 consecutive Maryland state and Baltimore City championships between 1953 and 1996, Mr. DiBlasi said.

From 1979 to 1983, Mr. Henderson was head baseball coach at what is now Baltimore City Community College, and in 1984, was named head baseball coach at CCBC Essex, where his teams made 21 playoff appearances.

In 1992, he was the only coach in NJCAA Region XX history to guide his team to the Division 1 national championship. That year, Mr. Henderson was named national coach of the year.

When he was let go after the 2006 season, he told The Sun, “I’m not at all happy the way it went down. I’m really not ready to wake up next year and not be helping kids learn baseball.”

“Though not all of Mr. Henderson’s former players have made the gigantic leap from pee-wee softball to the Hall of Fame, twenty-five have made it to the big leagues,” The Evening Sun reported in 1980.

He was a co-founder in 1963 with Donald “Doc’ Minnegan of the Towson University Athletic Hall of Fame.

Mr. Henderson was inducted into the NJCAA Region XX and the Maryland Association of Baseball Coaches halls of fame.

He was co-founder of the Baltimore Boys of Summer, a fraternal organization that honors local baseball and softball greats.

When Mr. Robinson was baptized more than 50 years ago, he selected Mr. Henderson to be his godfather.

“All I can say for George Henderson is: He’s a great businessman, a wonderful friend and a lousy godfather,” Mr. Robinson jokingly wrote in his autobiography, “Third Base is My Home.”

Mr. Henderson was an avid collector of baseball memorabilia, with which he filled the basement of his Springdale home, said his wife of 59 years, the former Susan Parkhurst, a former Baltimore County Public Schools educator.

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Reflecting on his long career in baseball, Mr. Henderson told The Sun that the perfect epitaph on his tombstone would be: “I’d rather be coaching.”

He was a longtime communicant of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Cockeysvile, but due to restoration of the church, a Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11 a.m. March 13 at Church of the Nativity in Timonium.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, Scott McLean Henderson, of Ellicott City, and Stephen Reed Henderson, of Chicago; and two granddaughters.