Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Herb Pennock: The Good and the Ugly

By Special Guest Blogger Harvey Frommer

All the medical news these days coming out of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania aboutBarbaro 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 amajor 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 countryhome near Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Pennock was known for a flowingpitching motion punctuated by fidgety movements on the mound. He did not over-power batters. He let them hit the ball, giving up more than a hit an inningin 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 theleague in winning percentage (.760), the first of four over .700 seasons. Hefollowed with a 21-9 record in 1924, and was 59-25 in 1926-28. Yankee manager Miller Huggins called Herb Pennock the greatest lefthander inbaseball history, marveling at the "Squire's" World Series record: 5-0, 1.95lifetime ERA. In 11 Yankee seasons, Pennock was 162-90 for a .643 winningpercentage.In December of 1943 Bob Carpenter purchased the Philadelphia Phillies. Pennockhit it off with the new owner and was hired "for life" as General Manager.

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 telephoneconversation 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 atthe ball park for four days. Robinson played on despite the horrid spewing ofracial 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.

Harvey Frommer is now in his 32nd consecutive year of writing sports books. He is the author of 38 sports books, including the classics: "New York CityBaseball," "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," "Rickey and Robinson," "A YankeeCentury," and Red Sox Vs. Yankees: The Great Rivalry" (with Frederic J.Frommer). His newest efforts are OLD TIME BASEBALL and WHERE HAVE ALL THE REDSOX GONE? Frommer sports books are available direct from the author - discounted andautographed.He is now at work on the definitive book on the 1927 Yankees to be published in 2007.

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