Dent: The story of John Kennedy, the Phillies’ forgotten first black player

From Mark Dent at on February 1, 2017:

The Phillies’ first African-American player came out of spring training hyped as “a prize package” and was compared to superstar Ernie Banks. Weeks later, after only five regular season at-bats in 1957, he was gone. John Kennedy would never play for the Phillies again.

Throughout the years, as the Phillies have honored several Negro Leaguers who played in Philadelphia, there’s no official record of any celebration for Kennedy, who died in 1998. It’s widely known the Phillies were the last National League team to integrate. Less known is the story of their first black player, Kennedy, so for Black History Month we’re highlighting his quick rise and fall with the team 60 years ago this spring.

“I would not say they made a huge commitment to the development of John Kennedy,” Chris Threston, author of The Integration of Baseball in Philadelphia, told Billy Penn. “They just wanted to get it over with.”

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Originally published: February 1, 2017. Last Updated: February 1, 2017.