"He touched an awful lot of people both on and off the field," Robinson said. "He was a tremendous ambassador for the game of baseball and for the Orioles. He cannot be replaced. No one was like him. No one is going to be like him after this.

"When he came over to the Orioles, everybody told me he was the Babe Ruth of Mexico. I don't know about that, but nobody could throw a fastball by him. He was a tremendous asset when we won our world championships. He was a good friend. I'm stunned. I send my condolences to Merle and his family."

Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, a former teammate said: "We all are stunned. Elrod's Elrod. All the great things the franchise has accomplished, he has been a part of. ... What's not like about Elrod? He always had a smile on his face.

"Unfortunately, that's part of growing older. You get robbed of your good friends and compatriots. Elrod is the kind of guy who made it all worthwhile. Not only because of what he did for the Orioles, but also in the community. He was a great goodwill ambassador. He was kind of a rock."

Rick Dempsey, a current Orioles coach and former teammate of Mr. Hendricks', said: "I'm pretty shocked. We thought that Elrod was out of the woods and that everything was going to be OK. I talked to people who saw him this morning and said he looked great. With Pat Kelly leaving because of a heart attack and now Elrod, what next? This organization has just been through hell. It's just been one thing after another.

"He's been kind of a mentor for all of us. He's been there and seen so much and done so much. Even when I came back to the Orioles, I looked to Elrod for advice about everything with the ballclub. He was such a good man. This is a sad day for the Orioles. It really is."

Mr. Hendricks, a catcher who was born in the Virgin Islands, spent 12 seasons in the major leagues, including 10 1/2 with the Orioles. He played in more than 100 games in each of the Orioles' pennant-winning seasons from 1969 through 1971.

The Orioles drafted him from the California Angels' Triple-A affiliate in 1967 after Hendricks had played for Mr. Weaver in Puerto Rico.

Mr. Hendricks broke into professional baseball in 1959 and made his major league debut with the Orioles in 1968. He played in 711 games - including 658 with the Orioles - before retiring in 1979.

Mr. Hendricks was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame on Aug. 26, 2001.

"All my rewards come from being in this uniform," he said the day he was inducted. "This is a bonus and something I never expected. The rewards I've gotten from this game far outweigh what I've put into it. For me, this is icing on the cake."


Mr. Hendricks filled in as manager twice in 1988, when Robinson was away from the time. Mr. Hendricks interviewed in 1994 for the managerial job after Johnny Oates was fired. The position went to Phil Regan.

Mr. Hendricks is survived by his wife of 35 years, Merle; their sons, Ryan, 33, and Ian Christopher, 29; and four children from Mr. Hendricks' previous marriage, Abegail, 43; Elrod Jr., 41; Elroy, 40; and Berecia, 38.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com peter.schmuck@baltsun.com