Herb Pennock: The Good and the Ugly
All the medical news these days coming out of Kennett Square,
Pennsylvania about Barbaro gives that locale the most extensive news
exposure since the days of Herbert Pennock, the man they called "The
Knight of Kennett Square."
One of the top hurlers of his time, Pennock went directly from high
school to a major league debut May 14, 1912 with the old Philadelphia
Athletics. His final game was August 27, 1934.
Classy, he was a horticulturist, a breeder of red silver foxes at his
country home near Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Pennock was known for
a flowing pitching motion punctuated by fidgety movements on the
mound. He did not overpower batters. He let them hit the ball, giving
up more than a hit an inning in his career. But he still was a big
winner with this approach, notching 35 lifetime shutouts.
Legendary sports writer Grantland Rice said Pennock pitched each game
"with the ease and coolness of a practice session."
The loose southpaw was just another one of the talented players the
Yankees stripped away from the Boston Red Sox. He came to the Yanks in
1923 and led the league in winning percentage (.760), the first of
four over .700 seasons. He followed with a 21-9 record in 1924, and
was 59-25 in 1926-28.
Yankee manager Miller Huggins called Herb Pennock the greatest
lefthander in baseball history, marveling at the "Squire's" World
Series record: 5-0, 1.95 lifetime ERA. In 11 Yankee seasons, Pennock
was 162-90 for a .643 winning percentage.
In December of 1943 Bob Carpenter purchased the Philadelphia Phillies.
Pennock hit it off with the new owner and was hired "for life" as
Pennock did not hit it off with Branch Rickey in 1947, attempting to
block Jackie Robinson's breaking of the color line. Pennock reportedly
had a telephone conversation with Rickey during which he said that the
Phillies would not take the field if Jackie Robinson were in uniform
for a series starting May 9. It was reported that Pennock told
Rickey: that you "just can't bring the nigger here (to Philadelphia)
with the rest of your team."
The Dodgers came, and Jackie Robinson came, too. Racial hatred was on
parade at the ball park for four days. Robinson played on despite the
horrid spewing of racial epithets. It was so horrific that Dodger
infielder Eddie Stanky, out of Alabama, challenged all those in the
Philly dugout - this within earshot of Pennock and Carpenter.
"The Knight of Kennett Square" had many marvelous and uplifting
moments on the baseball field. His attitude towards Jackie Robison was
not one of them.
# # #
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
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