Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy John Kennedy Day !

It was on April 22nd, 1957 that John Kennedy made his major league debut and became the first black player in Philadelphia Phillies history. The game was played in Jersey City, New Jersey at Roosevelt Stadium, the sometimes home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Kennedy entered the game in the top of the 8th inning as a pinch runner for Solly Hemus, who had doubled, but did not score. The Dodgers won, 5-1.

This date was exactly 10 years to the day after manager Ben Chapman's Phillies had infamously made the headlines because of the way he and his team taunted rookie Jackie Robinson in Brooklyn. The Phillies were the last team in the National League to field a black player. Only the American League's Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox were left.

Kennedy's next game was two days later, playing against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Connie Mack Stadium. He entered the game in the bottom of the 6th as a pinch runner for Harry Anderson, who had singled, and later scored on a bases-loaded triple by Ed Bouchee. The Phillies won, 8-5. He got into a total of just five games, the last one on May 3, 1957. At the plate he was 0-for-2, including one strikeout. In his two appearances at shortstop he had one assist, one error, and participated in one double play.

According to this 2008 story from
Kennedy stayed in professional baseball for three more years, but he had to quit to support his wife, Betty, and their children. He took a job distributing newspapers in Jacksonville and went to Ohio in the 1970s to work in a steel mill.

No matter where Kennedy went, baseball stayed with him. He was haunted by the feeling of a job unfinished in the sport, and Tazena Kennedy said her father had a recurring dream of walking into Philadelphia's Connie Mack Stadium as his teammates were taking infield practice, but he couldn't find the locker room or his way down to the field. Whenever the dream version of Kennedy found someone to point him in the right direction, he would wake up, never quite making it to his destination.


Jim said...

Great post and a great custom card.

moranb said...

Is it possible to purchase a copy of the card of John Irwin Kennedy that is shown on this page? I am trying tocompile a collection of cards of the first 100 blacks who integrated MLB. Thank you.

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