February 10 – Happy Birthday Herb Pennock

What you can learn doing research for a blog about the New York Yankees. Today’s birthday celebrant is a Hall-of-Fame southpaw who  pitched for the great Yankee teams of the 1920s. His Manager at the time, Miller Huggins, called Pennock the best left-hander in baseball back then. My choice would probably have been Lefty Grove but Pennock was indeed very good. He went 162-90 during his 11 seasons in New York and 5-0 in the World Series. He was a native of Kennett Square, PA and was nicknamed the “Knight of Kennett Square,” but when it came to his feelings about blacks, chivalry played no part.

Many respected authors and baseball historians have presented strong evidence that Pennock was a racist. Playing in an era when blacks were not permitted in the Major Leagues helped hide that fact, but when he retired from the mound and became a front-office executive, first for the Red Sox as head of their farm system and then later as GM of the Phillies, Pennock was able to actively help prevent integration in the big leagues. And when it did happen, he was among its’ most vociferous opponents.

Pennock was known to threaten that he’d never let his Philadelphia team take the field against any opponent that had a black man on their roster. Dodger owner Branch Rickey claimed that Pennock told him that Philadelphia wasn’t ready to see a “n—–r” play Major League baseball.  He hired Ben Chapman, his old Yankee teammate and one of the most notorious racists in all of baseball, to manage the Phillies. Chapman was an equal-opportunity bigot. The anti-Semitc slurs he had made as a New York outfielder during the 1930s had so enraged the team’s Jewish fans that they presented a petition, signed by over 15,000 people, requesting that the New York front office banish the player.

I’m not naive. I realize it was a different time in our society back then, but can you imagine what would happen to a modern day ballplayer who committed the same offenses as Chapman? Well if you were Herb Pennock you’d hire the guy to manage the Phillies. If those were the “good old days” of baseball in this country, I’m glad I wasn’t around to witness them. It was Chapman who became infamous for his cruel treatment of Jackie Robinson whenever Philadelphia played Brooklyn during the 1947 season.

The fact that Pennock is in the Hall of Fame and Pete Rose is not is why so many of today’s fans wonder what the phrase; “protecting the moral integrity of the game,” truly means.

A second all-time great Yankee pitcher also celebrates a birthday today, as does this pitcher who recently signed as a free agent with New York, this original owner of the Yankee franchise and this recent Yankee DH.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
1923 NYY 19 6 .760 3.13 35 27 5 21 1 3 238.1 235 86 83 11 68 93 1.271
1924 NYY 21 9 .700 2.83 40 34 5 25 4 3 286.1 302 104 90 13 64 101 1.278
1925 NYY 16 17 .485 2.96 47 31 11 21 2 2 277.0 267 117 91 11 71 88 1.220
1926 NYY 23 11 .676 3.62 40 33 5 19 1 2 266.1 294 133 107 11 43 78 1.265
1927 NYY 19 8 .704 3.00 34 26 7 18 1 2 209.2 225 89 70 5 48 51 1.302
1928 NYY 17 6 .739 2.56 28 24 4 18 5 3 211.0 215 71 60 2 40 53 1.209
1929 NYY 9 11 .450 4.92 27 23 1 8 1 2 157.1 205 101 86 11 28 49 1.481
1930 NYY 11 7 .611 4.32 25 19 3 11 1 0 156.1 194 95 75 8 20 46 1.369
1931 NYY 11 6 .647 4.28 25 25 0 12 1 0 189.1 247 96 90 7 30 65 1.463
1932 NYY 9 5 .643 4.60 22 21 1 9 1 0 146.2 191 94 75 8 38 54 1.561
1933 NYY 7 4 .636 5.54 23 5 10 2 1 4 65.0 96 46 40 4 21 22 1.800
22 Yrs 241 162 .598 3.60 617 419 135 247 35 33 3571.2 3900 1699 1428 128 916 1227 1.348
NYY (11 yrs) 162 90 .643 3.54 346 268 52 164 19 21 2203.1 2471 1032 867 91 471 700 1.335
BOS (8 yrs) 62 59 .512 3.67 201 124 56 70 12 6 1089.1 1169 522 444 29 299 358 1.348
PHA (4 yrs) 17 13 .567 3.77 70 27 27 13 4 6 279.0 260 145 117 8 146 169 1.455
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/22/2014.

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