The Red Sox party boarded the train in Boston on February 28, 1927,bound for spring training in New Orleans. During a four-hour layover in Cincinnati, eight more players got on. Among them was a prospect, F. A. Bennett. He didn’t make the team, but was “loaned” to Portland, Maine.1
About 3,000 people turned out for Portland’s Opening Day of the New England League season on May 19, and they saw Francis Bennett throw a seven-hit shutout against Nashua. Not only that; they also saw Bennett hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, which provided all the scoring in the game.
Duffy Lewis was the manager of the Portland Eskimos that year, and Bennett was one of his best pitchers, with a record of 14-6 and a 3.08 earned run average.
The September 11 Globe announced that Bennett was among nine players recalled to Boston. He was a right-hander who stood 5-feet-10 and is listed with a playing weight of 163 pounds.
Francis Allen Bennett, born on October 27, 1904 at Mardela Springs, Maryland,2later claimed to be of fifth-generation American-Welsh ancestry. His father, Turpin Hamilton Bennett, was listed as “farmer, general farm” in the 1910 census, living in Delmar, Maryland – straddling the border between Delaware and Maryland. The 1920 census shows Turpin as a carpenter at Barren Creek. Ana K. Holmes was Turpin’s wife and the couple had two sons – Lerin, born two years before Francis, and Francis himself. Ana Bennett had died in 1911 and Turpin had married again. His new wife, Mary Maggie Jones, worked as a seamstress from home.
Bennett attended elementary school and high school in Mardela Springs and two years at Blue Ridge College, New Windsor, Maryland.
Not long after he arrived in Boston, Bennett made his debut pitching in both games of the September 17 doubleheader against the visiting Tigers. Though the Red Sox had jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first game, they lost 8-4. Bennett pitched two innings in relief, the seventh and eighth, allowing just one base hit and one base on balls. In the second game, he pitched the eighth inning, allowing two hits and giving up the 10th run of an 11-5 game, but walking no one.
The Tigers were still in Boston on September 20 when Bennett worked in the first game of two. Del Lundgren had started the game and in the first 3 1/3 innings walked seven batters and threw three wild pitches. He also gave up seven hitsand four runs. Bennett came on in the fourth and worked 3 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing two hits and walking two. The Red Sox still lost, 4-3,though losing was nothing new. The team finished the season with a record of 51-103; finishing in their habitual last place.
Bennett worked in one more game, the first of a doubleheaderon October 1 in Philadelphia. It was also a loss, #102. This time manager Bill Carrigan offered him a start. The A’s scored once in the bottom of the first, but Boston took a 2-1 lead in the fourth. It didn’t last long. The A’s tied it in the fifth, and Bennett was knocked out of the box in a three-run sixth. He was charged with three runs (and 10 hits and two walks), enough to give him the loss in a game that ended 10-2. All in all, though, in the 12 1/3 innings he’d worked, his ERA was just 2.92.
He was invited back to spring training in Bradenton in 1928,and traveled north with the team. On April 11, in the second game of the season, he came in and pitched the top of the ninth of an 8-4 loss to Washington.He gave up one hit. It was his only appearance of 1928 and his last in the big leagues.He stuck with the team for another full month before his May 14 unconditional release to Pittsfield. It wasn’t surprising. The Boston Globe‘s Melville Webb had written just before the season began, “Frankie Bennett has all the fighting courage in the world, but may need more seasoning and more ‘on the ball.’”3
He lacked what it took to succeed again in the Eastern League and was 4-5 with a 6.19 ERA for Pittsfield. In 1929, he played one more season, in the New England League for the New Bedford Millmen. He had started the season with Pittsfield, but they sent him to New Bedford, where he reported on May 12 and was 11-9 with a 3.93 ERA.
After baseball, Bennett married the former Mary Sowiak of Pennsylvania on November 12, 1938. He somehow became involved with horse racing and at the time of the 1940 census lived with Mary at Chester, Pennsylvania where he was “owner, racing.” From 1948 to 1958, Bill Lee writes in The Baseball Necrology, “He worked as a piping superintendent of construction projects for DuPont Company and later was associated with Pipe Fitter’s Union Local #80.”4 At the time he completed his player questionnaire for the Hall of Fame in the early 1960s, he was pipe superintendent on construction for the Richard A. Duckworth Co.
Bennett died in mid-afternoon on March 18, 1966, at the Wilmington Medical Center in Delaware. Cause of death was pulmonary edema following heart problems. Bennett is buried in New Castle, Delaware, at Gracelawn Memorial Park.
In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Bennett’s player file and player questionnaire from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, Baseball-Reference.com, and the SABR Minor Leagues Database, accessed online at Baseball-Reference.com.
1 Boston Globe, May 20, 1927.
2 A “family tree” entry on Ancestry.com says his birthplace was Barren Creek, Wicomico County. The distinction between the two communities may be appreciated locally, but both seem to be in the same area north of Salisbury, Maryland, right at the place where the southwestern corner of Delaware juts into Maryland.
3 Boston Globe, April 8, 1928.
4 Bill Lee, The Baseball Necrology (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2003), 29.