SABR

Ed Kennedy

This article was written by Paul Browne.

If You Are There had done an episode on nineteenth century baseball, Edward "Eddie" Kennedy could have been the lead character. He would play in the first World's Series, and both the first professional game and the first American Association game in New York City. His career would also mirror the experience of many of the professional players of this period going from local amateur, to regional semi-pro, to early challengers to the National League, to the majors and then working his way back through minor leagues and independent teams.

One of the original members of the independent New York Metropolitans, he stayed with this team through its incarnations as an American Association (AA) franchise and rejoined it in several attempted revivals as an independent or co-op team. Despite an AA lifetime batting average of .204 Kennedy would play in the majors or on strong minor league teams from 1876 into the early 1890s due to his strong fielding. He was once called "the most expert left-fielder in the profession" [1] and was noted as a skilled base- runner. In some ways, he might also be called baseball's first "Iron Horse".

Kennedy was born on April 1, 1856, in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, to Martin Kennedy and Catherine Horrigan Kennedy. He and twin brother Martin were baptized at St. Rose Church on April 9, 1856. A sister, Bridget, had been born and baptized in 1847, a brother, John (James), in 1852 and another brother, Martin, who apparently died very young, was born in 1853.

The 1860 Census identified Catherine as a Domestic and Widow who had been born in Ireland. An older brother Richard, age 14, who was born in Pennsylvania, is also mentioned. In the 1870 census Eddie and Martin were listed as working as breaker boys with older brothers Richard and James working as mine laborers. Catherine is listed as keeping house.

By 1874 Kennedy started playing amateur ball and became a member of the Carbondale Blue Stockings (or Soxs) when the Carbondale Alerts merged with the Carbondale Lackawannas in 1875. This new team went on a "Starring Expedition" in September 1875 and played some of the best amateur nines of New York State. They won every game, their victims being the "Murphy's" of Troy and the Catskill, Utica, Syracuse, Auburn, Rochester, Fulton, Elmira, Ithaca, Owego, Binghamton and Norwich clubs. Pete Gillespie, who would later play with Troy and New York of the National League, was also a member of this team.

The following season Kennedy and John Marony of the Carbondale team would move on to the professional Binghamton Crickets. Marony would be back playing with Carbondale by mid-July. Binghamton played in a tournament in Syracuse in mid-July of 1876, losing games to Ithaca and Ilion. Later in July they would lose a close game, 6-5, to the San Francisco Centennials, who were touring New York and Pennsylvania that summer. Binghamton would also play for the championship of Central and Western New York. Kennedy would remain with Binghamton in 1877, which by that time was a member of the League Alliance.

Kennedy would join the Utica club of the International Association in 1878, along with enough other Binghamton players that this team would sometimes be called the "ex-Crickets" [2]. An eclipse would stop a game in Utica in August of that year with some wag commenting "This sort of thing must not occur again, and the heavenly bodies might as well understand it at once." [3] In October Kennedy would join others of the Utica club in playing a game of cricket against the local cricket club and, despite never having played before the ball players would be victorious. [4] Utica would be awarded third in the IA in 1878. Monetary awards to the clubs (not the players) would be Buffalo, $165, Syracuse, $110, and Utica, $55. [5]

The International Association, after losing its two Canadian members, would become the National Association (NA) in 1879, and Utica would start the season as a member. An early example of Kennedy's defensive prowess is reported in a game against Manchester in which "Kennedy made two remarkably brilliant fly catches." [6] By late June of 1879 Kennedy would be joined at Utica by future Hall of Famer Tim Keefe, a player who would be a teammate of Kennedy's in many years during their careers. Kennedy would play in 43 games before the Utica club was disbanded in July.

In mid-August 1879 Jim Mutrie, newly reappointed manager of the New Bedford team, would make Tim Keefe and Eddie Kennedy two of his early acquisitions. The National Association would stagger to the end of the season with a sudden end to championship games in the circuit in early October. New Bedford would disband, and Keefe would finish the season with Albany. In mid-May 1880 Kennedy was hired by Albany. It looked like his engagement would only last for a day when McCormick, previously of the Syracuse Stars, was signed [7] but Kennedy managed to hang on a bit longer, playing in a few games.

The National Association consisted of only three teams at the beginning of 1880: Albany, the Nationals of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. On June 9 the Hop Bitters of Rochester joined the NA, and Kennedy was the new team's left fielder, later moving to shortstop. A team headed by Mutrie would also join the NA around this time playing in Jersey City and Brockton before folding along with Albany and Baltimore in early July, leaving only Washington and Rochester in the NA. These teams would continue to play games at various locations on the East Coast. A 3-way tournament in August would see them play against the newly formed Union of Brooklyn.

By the end of August Jim Mutrie, while trying to form a team in Newark, New Jersey, would become the first baseman of a team called the New Yorks which was formed to play the Unions after the Rochester and Washington teams left for Washington. On September 15 Kennedy and 5 other former Rochester players would take the field as the core of a new club, the Metropolitans, formed by Mutrie who had obtained a lease for the original Polo Grounds and the backing of local businessman John B. Day. [8] Professional baseball had returned to New York City to stay. It was later reported that Kennedy "had the honor of being the first man to sign a contract with the once famous Indians," [9] another name that the Metropolitans were sometimes called.

At the beginning of the brief 1880 Metropolitan season games were played against teams such as the Unions, Jersey City, and Brooklyn. On September 29, 1880, the Metropolitans would play the Nationals of Washington, D.C. in the first professional baseball game ever played in New York City, drawing a crowd of over 2,000. Kennedy was the Metropolitans' left fielder that day, contributing a triple and a single. The game took place on the original Polo Grounds and the Mets won, 8-3 [10] (Earlier New York professional teams had played home games in Brooklyn). This would start a series of games against higher-class teams including the Nationals, Worcester, Troy and Chicago during this period.

As the National League (NL) convention was approaching in December 1880, Mutrie was quoted speculating on the formation of an independent association by the eastern clubs dissatisfied with Chicago's dominance of the NL. It was noted that the Metropolitans application to the League was "in abeyance" at that time. [11] An Eastern Championship Association was formed in 1881, but it failed to lure away any NL teams. The Atlantics of Brooklyn, the New Yorks, the Metropolitans, the Nationals of D.C and a new Boston club participated in the organizational meeting [12]. The Boston club never participated, but the Quicksteps of New York, Albany and the Athletics of Philadelphia who later moved to Baltimore also played in the ECA. The effort was very loosely organized and only the Mets, Atlantics and Athletics finished their full schedules against each other. The Metropolitans won the most games.[13] Kennedy's defensive prowess continued to be commented on with an account of the July 20, 1881, game against the Brooklyn Atlantics noting "a fine one-handed catch by Kennedy in the second inning...stopped the Atlantics from scoring two runs," [14] being one of many such notices that year. Eighteen eighty-one would also be Kennedy's "Iron Horse" season; he was the first player ever to take part in 149 games. From the founding of the Metropolitans to the end of the 1881 season he had played in all but 2 of the franchise's 250 odd games. [15]

The Metropolitans flirted with becoming members of the American Association when it was founded in 1882, but NL President Hulbert succeeded in convincing them to play in the League Alliance that year by offering "some favorable guarantee arrangements." [16] The Metropolitans and a Philadelphia team were the only LA members with New York winning the championship with 14 wins, 6 losses and 1 tie. Kennedy was frequently mentioned as a good base runner; moreover, a report of the August 13, 1882, game against Troy was one of many accounts commenting on a sacrifice hit by Kennedy. [17] The 5-foot-6 inch, 150-pound player [18] was also noted for his ability to draw first base on balls. At this time fielding and strategic play counted more than power hitting, and these qualities made Kennedy a valuable asset to the team. Kennedy's extraordinary defensive skills would continue to be noted frequently throughout that season.

There would again be great speculation over where the Metropolitans would play in 1883. Early accounts have a team that would later be known as the NL's New Yorks or Gothams identified as the Metropolitans of the NL. [19] John B. Day would succeed in having a franchise he owned competing in both the American Association and National League in 1883. A team consisting of many of the Metropolitans of 1882, again led by Mutrie, would become an AA franchise and Day would put together an NL team around a nucleus of 4 former Troy players when that upstate NY franchise was forced to fold in the 1883 pre-season meetings. One of those 4 players was Pete Gillespie, another Carbondale native and the NL team's left fielder. For three seasons, Carbondale men would dominate left field in New York City. The Mets would share the Polo Grounds with the NL franchise, and the teams would play against each other for the New York State championship, with the NL team winning the most games.

The first American Association game in New York City would be played on May 11, 1883. The Metropolitans would lose to the Athletics of Philadelphia 11 to 6. "Kennedy made the best hit of the day, which yielded him a home run." [20] The normally light hitting player would have another home run against Brooklyn on May 14 and a triple on the 17 against the Alleghenies of Pittsburgh. On June 24, 1883, it was reported that Kennedy "has played so far this season without an error."[21] On July 31 Kennedy would have a third home run in a game against Baltimore, although today he is credited with only two for the season. [22] The Reach Guide covering the 1883 season lists Kennedy as fourth among left fielders with a.905 average in 103 games, but the 3 players who finished above him each played 12 or fewer games. In November the manager of St. Louis of the new Union Association would approach Kennedy but he would reject the offer and stay with the Metropolitans. [23]

Trouble between John B. Day and the other AA owners erupted over the winter. Viewing Day as a spy for the NL the others wanted him out of the AA but he would not give up his franchise. The matter would continue to be a problem into the 1885 season.

In 1884 the Metropolitans would win the American Association pennant. Many, including the team's owner, were surprised by their rise to the championship. Day's NL team, which charged 50 cents admission as opposed to the AA's 25-cent fee, was seen as the class organization and got most of the best players. The AA team was forced to settle for seconds and at the start of the season played not at the Polo Grounds but on a field nicknamed "The Dump" because that is what it had once been. Metropolitan player Jack Lynch said that on that field you could "go down for a grounder and come up with six months of malaria." [24] After it appeared the Metropolitans might win the AA pennant, they were allowed to play on the Polo Grounds except when there was a scheduling conflict with the Gothams. The Reach Guide covering the 1884 season lists Kennedy as fourth among left fielders with a .945 average in 103 games, but the 3 players who finished above him each played 13 games or less. The Spalding Guide of that year lists him tied for first, somewhat discounting two players with 8 games or less. He was paid $1,900 for the 1884 season. [25]

New York would struggle a little in the 12-team AA but by early October the championship was theirs. Providence won the NL pennant handily behind Hall of Famer Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn's incredible season pitching record of 60 wins (some encyclopedias have revised it to 59). Manager Jim Mutrie's challenge of Providence to a three-game postseason championship was accepted. On October 23, 1884, the Metropolitans took the field in what became known as the "World's Series" (not World Series).

In the first game Radbourn held the Metropolitans to two hits, one by Troy and the other by Keefe. Providence won 6 to 0. Over 2,500 people witnessed the game.

The second game was the best played of the Series with the fielding of the Mets particularly celebrated but it was not enough to overcome Radbourn's pitching. Keefe pitched well also, but Providence won, 3-1, with both clubs scoring all their runs in the fifth inning. The game was called on account of darkness after the seventh. In the third inning Kennedy got on base on a muffed play by Jack Farrell. Radbourn tried to pick him off on first, but Start missed the throw and Kennedy was on second. Kennedy headed for third on a passed ball, but a good throw from Barney Gilligan to Jerry Denny put out the feared base runner. [26]

While the second game would be the end of a best-of-three series today, the third game was played in 1884. The turnout of only a few hundred people made the Providence team reluctant to play and they only agreed to go on with the game after the Mets allowed them to choose whomever they wanted as umpire. Providence chose Keefe, thus depriving New York of its best pitcher. The Mets, behind substitute pitcher James "Buck" Becannon, lost, 11-2. The game was called after the sixth inning, a fact frequently attributed to umpire Keefe's kindness to his teammates rather than any conditions of nature. Kennedy is credited with combining with second baseman Tom Forster for a double play [27].

Despite the previous year's AA championship, in 1885, Day continued to favor his 50-cent admission NL franchise over his 25-cent Metropolitans. Keefe and Esterbrook, the best pitcher and hitter of the team, respectively, were moved to the Gothams along with Manager Mutrie. Speculation that the team was to fold with most of the rest of the players to go to Brooklyn of the AA was rampant. Actions were taken to try to throw the Mets out of the AA because Keefe and Esterbrook were moved out of the AA, but the issue ended with the team being fined $500 and an attempt to expel Mutrie, already managing in the NL, from the AA. The expulsion would be modified to an agreement among all AA owners not employ him, allowing Mutrie to continue to manage in the NL, thus averting another baseball war. [28] Kennedy was never listed as the target of any particular team as many of the other Mets were as the dissolution rumors persisted throughout the season. The Mets would drop to seventh place with some supporters blaming the continued rumors that the team would dissolve or be out of the AA in 1886 for the their poor performance. Others called for changes to strengthen several weak spots in the line-up.

In 1886 Kennedy would leave the Metropolitans for the first time. In mid-April Kennedy, John "Dasher" Troy and Grayson S. "Gracie" Pierce (who left the Mets after 1884) signed with "Hustling" Dan O'Leary's Elmira club. The easy availability of so many players from the Metropolitans may have been partly due to the speculation between the 1885 and 1886 seasons that the AA was going to boot the Metropolitans because of problems with John B. Day's ownership of both the NL and AA New York franchises. The AA allowed the team to stay only after Day sold the Mets to Erastus Wiman, who won a Court battle forcing the AA to accept his team. These players may also have been some of the "weak spots" that needed to be strengthened as none were listed as sure to return when Secretary Williams of the Metropolitans mentioned those who would be with the team in 1886. [29]

Since Kennedy only lasted one season without Mutrie, he was likely a favorite of the manager and kept his job for personal reasons as much as his fielding ability. He was also said to be "quiet and unassuming in his deportment" [30] and he is often referred to as a fan favorite. In an era when complaints about player behavior and unreliability were common and on a team with at least its fair share of characters, Kennedy might have been a valuable asset. As the team tried to break with its past, his generally weak hitting may have caught up with him. He was missed, however: "The spirit of good little Eddie Kennedy, the old left-fielder of the club, still hovers over the nine, and believers in omens say that Manager Gifford allowed the club's "Mascot" to escape when Kennedy was released." [31]

In Elmira, Kennedy's skill as a base runner is exemplified in an account of that team's loss to Rochester on April 29, 1886. With two out, Bagley on third and Kennedy on first, Kennedy "made a daring lead towards second -- so daring that he induced Blakely to throw the ball to first, allowing Bagley to score" the only Elmira run of the game. [32]

After establishing his Elmira team, O'Leary secured the Scranton franchise in the Pennsylvania State Association. While the original intent may have been to run two different teams, by early July the Elmira team had become the Scranton franchise of the Pennsylvania State Association. Troy was the Captain of this team, but in late June there were reports that he had resigned, with Kennedy, a native of nearby Carbondale, expected as his replacement. Troy did not follow through with his plan and maintained his position for a time. [33] On July 24 O'Leary's Scranton franchise collapsed due to the manager's profligate ways, and although a new Scranton franchise would replace them and finish the season, Kennedy would return to the majors with the Brooklyn franchise of the AA.

In mid-August, 1886 Brooklyn would be left short handed due to a number of injuries including outfielders Ernie Burch, out with a sprained knee, and Jim McTamany, out with a sprained ankle. On August 20 "Eddy Kennedy, formerly of the Mets, covered center field for the Brooklyn men and he was warmly received by the assemblage." [34] This was the first of a series of four games against the Metropolitans that Kennedy would appear in. He would end his major league career on August 25 with his "fine running catches" noted as one of the features of the game. [35]

Kennedy moved on to Lowell of the New England League in 1887. Eddie led the league's left fielders with a .906 fielding average and was in the top 20 among hitters with a surprising .382 batting average. [36] He was one of the players winning a Boston Globe championship medal [37]. He was credited with 16 home runs, 8 triples and 33 doubles [38]. Lowell won the pennant that year after an extra series of 5 games was needed to eliminate Portland from the championship. Lowell won the first, second and fifth games with the third and fourth being rained out. Lowell then played the Boston NL team for the championship of New England. Kennedy stole one base and scored two runs in Lowell's 13-9 loss in the first game [39]. The second game was a 14-6 victory for Boston.

Kennedy was well appreciated in Lowell that year. "There was never a more popular player in Lowell than Kennedy, the left fielder. He came here with the reputation of a fine fielder, but not more than an average batter. The pitchers who faced him soon found that somebody blundered when they said Kennedy couldn't bat. They could fool him for a few strikes with an out curve, but he seldom was retired on strikes. The latest report was that he was offered more money than he was receiving in Lowell, but it is believed that he will be found in left garden next year for the Lowell team." [40]

Kennedy would return to Lowell in 1888, but in 1889 he would join "Chief" Roseman, Nelson, Lynch, Sam Crane, Becannon, Riepslegar and others in reorganizing the New York Metropolitans [41]. Kennedy would be in left field when the Mets played their first game against a picked nine on March 23, 1889 [42]. The original plan had been to organize as a stock company but June reports list them as a co-operative team [43]. By June, accounts of Mets games would begin to appear with Kennedy no longer playing. By July, Kennedy would be with Hartford of the Atlantic Association. In mid-August it would be reported that "Kennedy and John Smith have been released to reduce expenses." [44]

The formation of the Players League in 1890 created more openings for players at the major league level but chaos for the minor leagues. Kennedy did not land a spot with a major league team, but after the smoke cleared in a dispute between the New England and Atlantic leagues over Worcester, Kennedy would secure a position on that team. Kennedy would share in another of the experiences which nineteenth-century ball players were exposed to when the managers and teams of Worcester and Washington were arrested for playing Sunday ball near Alexandria, Virginia, on June 29. [45] The team's owner, J.J. Kennedy, turned the franchise over to the Atlantic Association near the end of April. There would be speculation that the team would move to Providence, but the team struggled along in Worcester until July when it dropped out and was replaced by Lebanon, Pennsylvania. The Lebanon team would pick up Kennedy. [46]

During the 1888 through 1890 seasons Kennedy's base running and defensive play would continue to draw attention. His hitting was also somewhat better at this level than it had been in his major league career. Despite this, Kennedy's career pretty much ends in 1890.
He would surface briefly with the Metropolitans again in 1892, and while there is no report of a game being his final game, the record seems to end in the spring of that year.

Kennedy died on May 20, 1905, at about 1:30 PM. His death certificate lists him as a Laborer who was a tenant at 73 East 108th Street in New York City. His wife survived him. The cause of death was listed as inflammation of the heart, a condition he had suffered from for about 10 years.

The 1900 census lists an Edward Kennedy born in Pennsylvania, living on East 109th Street in New York City. He had a wife named Mary and four children, Martin, 15, Richard, 12, William, 3, and Frances, 10 months. During their 16-year marriage they had three other children who did not survive. His occupation appears to be Assistant Gardener. Based on the address listed being in the same neighborhood as East 108th Street; the children having names similar to those in Eddie Kennedy's family and the occupation being in the class of Laborer, it is very likely that this is former ball player Eddie Kennedy's family.

While popular in his playing days he appears to have been forgotten at the time of his death. None of the major papers that had reported on his career seem to have carried an obituary. His hometown's Carbondale Leader noted on May 26, 1905, that "Gillespie and ex-Mayor Kilpatrick are the last living members of the Alerts." The paper didn't even mention that Kennedy had died on the twentieth. [47] Maybe Kennedy's passing can be noted by a poem printed when the Utica team he played for in 1879 ceased to play:

The melancholy days have come,
The warmest of the year.
When ladies ask for Kennedy
And find he is not here. [48]

Notes

[1] National Police Gazette, 11/15/1882

[2] Chicago Daily Tribune, 5/19/1878

[3] New Orleans Picayune quoted in the Chicago Daily Tribune, 8/25/1878

[4] Field and Stream, 10/31/1878

[5] Brooklyn Eagle, 2/27/1879

[6] Boston Globe, 6/1/1879

[7] Washington Post, 5/16/1880

[8] Rankin, William M., series, New York Clipper, 1905

[9] Boston Globe, 10/3/1887

[10] New York Times, 9/30/1880

[11] Boston Globe, 12/2/1880

[12] Washington Post, 4/12/1881

[13] Heshberger, Richard, SABR 19th century e-mail group, 10/31 & 11/1/2005

[14] New York Times, 7/21/1881

[15] National Police Gazette, 11/4/1882 & New York Times, 11/28/1882

[16] Melville, Tom. Early Baseball and the Rise of the National League. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc.,2001.

[17] New York Times, 8/13/1882

[18] baseball-reference.com

[19] National Police Gazette, 12/2/1882

[20] New York Times, 5/13/1883

[21] Washington Post, 6/24/1883

[22] New York Times, 8/1/1883

[23] New York Times, 11/28/1883

[24] Nemec, David. The Beer and Whiskey League. New York: Lyons & Burford, 1994.

[25] Boston Daily Globe, 3/16/1884

[26] Brooklyn Eagle, 10/25/1884

[27] New York Times, 10/26/1884

[28] Washington Post, 5/17/1885

[29] New York Times, 12/23/1885

[30] National Police Gazette, 11/4/1882

[31] The Sporting News, 5/17/1886

[32] Elmira Daily Advertiser, 4/30/1886

[33] Carbondale Leader, 6/25/86

[34] New York Times, 8/21/1886

[35] Brooklyn Eagle, 8/26/1886

[36] Reach's Base Ball Guide, 1888

[37] Boston Globe, 10/6/1887

[38] Boston Globe, 10/3/1887

[39] Boston Globe, 10/15/1887

[40] Boston Globe, 10/31/1887

[41] Chicago Daily Tribune, 3/9/1889

[42] Brooklyn Eagle, 3/24/1889

[43] Brooklyn Eagle, March 2, 1889 and New York Times, 6/28/1889

[44] Boston Globe, 8/17/1889

[45] Chicago Daily Tribune, 6/30/1890

[46] New York Times, 8/30/1890

[47] Carbondale Leader, 5/26/1905

[48] The Utica Morning Herald, quoted in Pent-Ups. Fiesthumel, Scott. Self-published, 1995.

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