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10/11/09 12:49 PM ET

Postseason hero Henderson returns

Slugger jump-started Sox's playoff dominance vs. Angels

BOSTON -- The Red Sox came into Sunday's game needing little in the way of motivation.

Staring at an 0-2 deficit to the Angels in the American League Division Series, they were well aware of the situation at hand: win or call it a season.

Whether or not they wanted one last jolt of inspiration before Game 3, the Red Sox surely got it when former postseason hero Dave Henderson threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park.

Of course, it was Henderson, also known as "Hendu," who sparked the Red Sox to an epic comeback in the 1986 AL Championship Series. Their opponent that year? The Angels.

With Boston trailing, 3-1, in the best-of-seven series, Henderson drilled a two-out, two-strike go-ahead two-run home run off Donnie Moore in the ninth inning of Game 5 at Anaheim Stadium, jumping for joy out of the batter's box as his drive soared into the left-field seats.

The blast gave the Red Sox a one-run lead, and after the Angels pulled even in the bottom of the ninth, Henderson, who had initially entered the game as a defensive replacement, delivered a game-winning sacrifice fly in the 11th to send the series back to Boston.

From there, the Red Sox put away the Angels with 10-4 and 8-1 victories that secured the AL pennant.

Following a toss to Red Sox pitcher Manny Delcarmen at home plate on Sunday, which was met with thunderous applause, Henderson repeated his trademark leap before playfully pointing toward the Angels' dugout.

Henderson collected 197 home runs during a 14-year Major League career from 1981-94, but there's little doubt as to his most famous long ball.

Twenty-three years after Henderson's clutch swat, the 2009 Red Sox find themselves in need of similar heroics. But if any club can turn the trick, it's likely Boston. Four teams in LDS history have climbed back to erase a 0-2 hole in the best-of-five format, with the Red Sox doing the honors in 1999 and 2003.

John Barone is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.