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"Yeah, he said he didn't like the smell in his hotel room."
"He's really nice."
Jim Frey, the first base coach for the New York Mets, decided to strike up a conversation with Hendrick one day in June, soon after Hendrick had started to play that position. Says Frey: "I didn't know him, but for 10 years I'd heard these stories about him—how he didn't talk to the press, stuff like that. But I'm a friendly sort of guy, so I asked him, 'George, how do you like first base?' Now I'm expecting him to say something like, 'What the hell does it matter to you?'
"Well, out comes this voice that's soft and articulate-like. He sounded like a nun. He says, 'Well, Jim, my teammates have been so helpful they've made the transition easy.'
"Now I'm knocking my head because I don't know if I'm hearing right. But I was—George is just something other than what people said he was."
Hendrick is almost as popular with opposing players as he is with his teammates. In June the Pirates and Cardinals emptied their benches and a beanball-incited skirmish began. Hendrick paired off with Madlock, and the two engaged in a hilarious imitation of a brawl. In fact, it was so funny that some of the other players stopped to watch, and the fight died of laughter.
Says Chris Chambliss of the Braves, "He is absolutely the friendliest, most outgoing person you'll ever meet."
Hendrick has been known to go upstairs after a game in Busch Stadium to where the young Cardinal fans wait for autographs and escort some of them downstairs for a tour of the clubhouse. He'll say, holding his hand out waist high, "I'll take anybody to the clubhouse who can walk under my hand." Then he'll say "C'mon" even to the kids who don't qualify.
"In 40 years in this business, I've never met a finer young man," says Angel Executive Vice-President Buzzie Bavasi, who was president of the Padres when they acquired Hendrick from the Indians at the 1976 winter meetings. "When I gave the Padres my resignation, George did something I've never had another player do. He called me and wanted to know if I needed any money."
St. Louis values Hendrick not only for what he does on the field, which is considerable, but for what he does in the clubhouse. Ozzie Smith, Hendrick's closest friend on the team, says, "He's an unselfish person, a happy person. The biggest joke is when they call him Silent George. He stirs up more fun in the clubhouse...."