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Negro Leagues
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Negro Leagues Legacy

Stars of the Negro Leagues

Live arm
Henderson makes his mark before arm problems curtails his career
By Brian Wilson/MLB.com


Arthur Henderson became known as "Rats" after someone put a rat in his lunch box.
Born: 1891, Atlanta
Died: 1948, Islip, N.Y.
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Arthur "Rats" Henderson left his mark on teammates and opponents alike, despite the fact that his arm trouble curtailed his career. His curveball was virtually unhittable.

Henderson started pitching with the Richmond Giants in 1922, but performed well in an exhibition game against the Bacharach Giants. That would prove to be a fortuitous occurrence for both parties. The Bacharachs signed Rats, who would win 16 games and lose only five for the Atlantic City-based club.

The Bacharach Giants would become charter members of the Eastern Colored League in 1923, and Henderson posted a record of 8-6. In 1924, he proved to be one of the Negro League's best young hurlers, boasting a sterling 8-1 mark. As his reward, the ace received one of the highest salaries -- $375 a month for the '25 season. And the Bacharach Giants got what they paid for, as his 13-5 record would attest.

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With an offense led by Oliver "Ghost" Marcelle and "King Richard" Lundy, and with fellow hurlers Claude "Red" Grier, and Luther Farrell, Henderson and the Bacharachs won the Eastern Colored League title in 1926 with a 34-20 record. Henderson posted a 15-5 regular season mark, but was unable to lead the team past Rube Foster's Chicago American Giants in the World Series. He performed admirably, with a 1-1 record and two ties. He pitched in five of the nine games, started four, completed three and posted a 1.45 ERA including a shutout. Foster's squad won the best-of-nine series.

Rats led his team back to postseason play in 1927 with a 19-7 mark but arm troubles ended his season prematurely, and he was unable to participate in the World Series. The Chicago American Giants again won the title.

Henderson's arm woes returned the following season. He had fashioned a 13-2 mark when his arm went dead. He was never the same after that. In 1929 he was an uncharacteristic 6-10 -- the beginning of the end of what had been a promising career.

"He was terrific for awhile until his arm went bad," said Negro Leagues pitcher Webster McDonald, in Voices from the Great Black Baseball Leagues by John Holway. "His career was short, but he was great."

Henderson came about his unusual moniker as a youngster on the receiving end of a practical joke. In his early teens, Arthur worked at a glass factory. Someone hid a rat in the unsuspecting Henderson's lunch box. When he opened his lunch, the rodent emerged, as did his lifelong nickname.

Brian Wilson is an editor/producer for the MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.