The following interview for my book, The Winning Edge was completed with Gary White, one of Coach Billy Henderson's remarkable baseball players, who played on two championshipship baseball teams with Billy Henderson in 1971, and 1972 at Mt de Sales High School in Macon, Ga.. Gary was an exceptional left handed pitcher that died suddenly on July 25, 2012. (In photo, left to right are Charlie Trippi, Billy Henderson and Gary White)
( This interview is entirely in Gary's own words.)
Coach Henderson started coaching me in Little League. I think I was 8 or 9 years old. Johnny was on the team also so he started coaching me then and I was going into the 8th grade and he was leaving Willingham to go to Mt de Sales and he talked my parents into letting me go to Mt de Sales. He coached me from then in baseball all the way up to when he left, which was my senior year.
It was the first or second year in Little League we had a Round Robin at the end of the year and we won it. I remember that because I pitched the last two games. I remember coach had an X amount of innings you could pitch for that age and we were tied in the 2nd game. I was not pitching real well and they were talking about pulling me. I found out after the game that Coach Henderson said if we don't let Gary pitch and let him finish, we won't make it to the 3rd game. Anyway it turned out we won the 2nd game and the 3rd to win the Round Robin. That's the only one I remember the two years.
He was the first one to talk discipline and about grooming and everything like that, and to show respect for everybody. He was the first one to say really you need to get involved with everything you can, even sports, religion and everything so I remember all of that. One of my friends at the time that I spent the night with lived right across the street from Billy Henderson so I would see him when we played LIttle League plus if I stayed over at my friends house I would see Coach Henderson and his family. So I was around them pretty much a lot.
At Mt De Sales Coach McDaniel was the asssistant for a while and Coach Chester Pierce. The biggest thing was staying focused. I know I think my sophomore year we played a game at Luther Williams Field and he (Coach Henderson) didn't like the way we played so we loss the game and he demanded that we were going to practice right then so we did. What we used to do was simulated things like I would pitch to a catcher and he would hit infield. Well, I wasn't paying attention so he hit the ball to 1st base and I forgot to cover 1st and he hollowered at me right then and there and said drop everthing you got and run the field so he was very disciplined and he didn't like you not paying attention. I think it was in either my sophomore or Jr. year they had the Lem Clark Tournament and I believe we were playing Central and I was pitching and Coach always had a thing if he hollowed out he's digging in on you that means you brush him back or whatever so it was a big fellow at bat and I heard Coach Henderson hollow that and sure enough I tried to brush him back and well I got to close and I hit him. He held that bat up and it seemed like a tooth pick in his hand but Johnny (Henderson) was a big fellow. Johnny was catching and he stood up and everything was fine. We finished the inning and then Coach Henderson put me out in left field and I remember catching the winning out to win the Lem Clark Tournament..
I played baseball my freshman, sophomore, Jr and Senior years for Coach Henderson. A couple of other guys that lived in our area were Eddie Josey and Ricky Shirley that also went to Mt de Sales with us. Eddie Josey played football and basketball and played baseball up until his senior year. Ricky Shirley played baseball all the way through like I did. He played some football also. Johnny Henderson and I were good friends. As a matter of fact one time we dated sisters at Mt de Sales. That was our freshman year. Yeah we were good and close. He was getting more into football during that time so we grew apart a little bit . I helped do a little football training but not that much.
I remember one year my season record was 11-2. I think it was my Jr. year. The biggest thing and this is what most people remember when I hadn't seen them in a long time. I remember Coach Henderson told me how to make a move to 1st base and I wish I knew but I was able to pick off a lot of people on 1st base. The 1st baseman most of the time was a guy named Joey Hammond. Joey and I had a little signal. If he tapped his hand in the glove 2 or maybe 3 times then I was going to first because Joey would know how far the guy got off. I wouldn't look at 1st even though I'm a left hander and faced it and we picked off a lot of people. That was probably the thing that most people remember. I only hit about 2 home runs. Johnny hit the most, Ricky Shirley hit a couple and Jimmy Viviani was on the team and he also played football. Jimmy hit some. Those are the main ones. We had a lot of spray hitters. We manufactured a lot of runs from what I remember.
Johnny was a good football player. He was the quarterback. I think his senior year and Jr year they won the state championship. They transferred him to defensive back at Georgia.
I think of him (Coach Henderson) a lot. I was so happy to go see him. I graduated in 1974. I didn't know he would really know me. It took a minute because of all the people he's coached but then he remembered all the people on the team and his wife remembered me and I always felt close to them because he always taught me good things about life and how to treat people and how to strive to be your best when you're playing. Those things he just instilled and always stayed with you and just respect for him, the game, his family, everything. You know we knew his family real well.
I didn't get to see Brad play. I don't remember the year Brad got killed but I know the LIttle League team were were on was called the Cardinals and back then it was still Willingham and my mother was sitting next to Johnny's mother, Mrs. Henderson and I remember they told me at the time when we came out I remember Johnny and I were walking together and how big the uniforms looked on us and and my mom said Mrs. Henderson got teary eyed because she said how well Johnny looked like Brad at the time and that was a tough time for him but from what I remember they handled it real well.
It just seemed like at the time, Johnny, and othe players and Coach Henderson felt like a special group. I mean when he started LIttle League we were good together and we won a couple of tournaments then we go to Mt de Sales and we won several Lem Clark Tournaments and some state tournaments. It just felt like a special time to be with him and be taught by him as a coach and as a person.
I remember being on the Little League Cardinals with Coach Henderson. He had a fellow named Robert Ogburn that stayed with him in his home because he was helping the fellow out and Robert also helped him coach our little league team. Robert was a super guy. One time me and another fellow missed practice with the Cardinals and at the end of the practice Coach Henderson was leaving but he told Coach Robert Ogburn to make sure Gary and I don't remember the other fellow's name, make sure they know the meaning of practice and what it means to miss it and he gave us extra running duties.