By: Con Marshall
One of the Panhandle’s most prominent athletic personalities, Dale Hendrickson of Kimball, will be inducted into the Nebraska Baseball Hall of Fame in Beatrice on Sunday, Feb. 9. He will be one of seven inductees, but one of only five among the hall’s 250 members with ties to the Panhandle.
Hendrickson, now 83, was a standout baseball and basketball player, coached both of those sports after graduating from Chadron State College in 1960 and spent more than 35 years as a high school teacher, coach and activities director.
A hard-throwing left-hander, Hendrickson pitched Gering’s American Legion team to a state championship in 1953. The next summer, he pitched for the Chadron Elks town team and also signed a contract with the Milwaukee Braves at their tryout camp at Rushville. Although the camps continued 10 more years, he was the only participant ever offered a contract.
In the summer of 1955 while pitching for the Braves’ farm team in Lawton, Okla., Hendrickson became a rising star. He compiled a 24-8 record, including three playoff victories, and hurled 39 consecutive scoreless innings and 75 innings without permitting an earned run.
He also had an impressive 11-2 record the next year at Evansville, Ill., one of the Braves’ top minor league teams; then really drew widespread attention during spring training in 1957 while pitching against the Yankees in an exhibition game and struck out Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Bill Skowran in the same inning and fanned Tony Kubek and Gil McDougald later in the game.
While Hendrickson never reached the majors, he played pro baseball seven years. In addition, he developed into an outstanding basketball player at Chadron State, scoring 860 points and is a member of the Eagles’ Athletic Hall of Fame.
After earning his degree from CSC, Hendrickson spent nine years teaching and coaching at Morrill and 27 years, including 24 as activities director, at Kimball before retiring in 1996. Several summers he also coached American Legion baseball. One of his teams at Morrill won a state championship and another Morrill team and two at Kimball qualified for the state tournament.
The baseball field in Kimball is named in his honor. He also was named that community’s Citizen of the Year and presented Outstanding Service to Youth and Outstanding Community Educator awards.
In addition, he was tabbed the Nebraska Athletic Director of the Year in 1995 and served as the organization’s president.
His wife, the former Gayle Babue, was a 1955 graduate of Chadron High. She died June 24, 2018.
About 20 of Hendrickson’s family members and friends have made reservations to attend the induction program.
The only others with Panhandle ties in the state’s Baseball Hall of Fame are Gene Leahy of Rushville, Leo Newell of Gering and Gary Neibauer of Scottsbluff. Johnny Hopp who played in nearly 1,400 games for six major league teams over a 14-year span ending in 1952, will be inducted posthumously on Sunday. He was a native Hastings, but was living in Scottsbluff when he died in 2003.
A spokesman said the Hall of Fame would like to receive nominations for potential inductees from the Panhandle. The material may be sent to Larry Bornschlagl, 1319 West Cademon Circle, Lincoln, NE 68523.