Reporter Hank Hersch, whose story on the Toronto Blue Jays appears on page 34, started his literary career a long time ago—in second grade, to be exact. Hersch, 27, remembers reading the class his work in progress on "Henry the H." One day it was about Henry the Helicopter; another, Henry the Hammer; and a third, Henry the Handkerchief. "It went on for about a month," recalls Hank, "until everyone finally got sick of it." His brother Fred, now 29 and a talented jazz pianist, provided accompanying florid illustrations.
Not surprisingly, after such an auspicious start, Hersch blossomed as a writer, eventually earning an A.B. in English from Princeton and a master's in journalism from Columbia. Henry the Honor Student.
Academic accomplishments aside, Hersch's greatest pride is reserved for recollections of his exploits as a "backyard athlete" in Cincinnati (which Hersch describes as the greatest chili town in America). Every Friday afternoon in the fall, Hersch's high school cronies would gather in Rock Memorial Stadium (named after Andy "Rock" Schneider, whose back lawn constituted the field) to play tackle football—no pads, no rules.
"Basically, we pounded the tar out of each other," recalls Henry the Hitter, the self-appointed commissioner of the PFL (Physical Football League). "I modeled myself after Bill Bergey [a former Bengals linebacker]." Says longtime friend Steve Tumen, "We had a name for Hank: T-man, because he looked like a T—all shoulders, no body. But he was a fearless hitter." How Henry the H, alias T-man, commissioner of the PFL, kept all those initials straight, nobody knows.
Hersch first began to consider a career in journalism after he joined a student-run organization at Princeton called the Press Club that provided stringers for various area newspapers. "I remember interviewing one guy, a hard-core activist, and realizing that this was a person whose ideas and outlook I would never have had an opportunity to explore without being a journalist," he recalls. After college, brief stints at local papers in Danville, Ill. and Mamaroneck, N.Y. helped Hersch sharpen his skills. Henry the Honed.
Hersch has been doing double duty this week, combining his foray into baseball with his regular duties as this season's writer of College Football's Week (page 70), but have no fear, Henry the Hard Worker is here.
HERSCH HAS COME A LONG WAY FROM HIS EARLY DAYS AS HENRY THE HANDKERCHIEF