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Herb Pennock: The Good and the Ugly

by Harvey Frommer

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 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 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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