Danish Journalist Documents the Life of His Country’s Lone MLB Player

U.S. field work included reporter's first time at a game

As Jannik Bay Hansen waited for his New Year’s Eve party guests to arrive in Copenhagen in 2010, he turned to Google to pass the time. Seven years later, the freelance journalist was recently in the U.S. tending to a project related to that seemingly innocent activity.

1912-23 Boston Red Sox logo

Hansen is writing a book about Olaf Henriksen, a member of the Boston Red Sox at the beginning of the 20th century and the only Dane to make it to baseball’s North American major leagues. From a report in the Canton Citizen, when he visited to meet with the late player’s granddaughter:

Following the 1912 World Series finale in which Henriksen played a major role, he returned home immediately instead of lingering to soak in the victory and celebrate with the other players. Hansen speculates that the choice may have been related to the high value Danish culture places on modesty and not standing out.

It is likely that Henriksen was influenced to some extent by his Danish parents. Born in Denmark in 1888, Henriksen emigrated to America with his parents while still an infant. He grew up in Wareham and Canton and played first on Canton town teams and then on a semi-pro team in Stoughton and a minor league team in Brockton. He was known for being small but fast and a reliable hitter, good at getting on base.

Henriksen also played in the 1915 and 1916 World Series, before moving from pro to semi-pro leagues in 1917. He passed away in 1962.

In addition to Ohio, Hansen spent time in Boston and New York. In the latter locale, he attended his first-ever MLB game at Citi Field. It should be a fascinating book. Here’s just a taste of the fertile material this represents, from a profile done for the Society of American Baseball Research:

Olaf was known by several nicknames including The Little General, The Owl, Kid Henriksen and Little Henriksen given by friends and teammates, but the one that stood out during his major-league years was Hennie. To a lesser extent he was called Swede, frequently listed in baseball fact-books and encyclopedias as an “official” nickname for him that was not germane since Olaf was a Dane.