Tag Archives: George Mullin

Nashville’s Swift Sherman Kennedy

Sherman Montgomery Kennedy was born in Conneaut, Ohio on November 13, 1877. His father, Benjamin, was a real estate agent, and his mother, Clara, was a homemaker. By the time his three sisters were in school and his brother was a farm hand, Sherman had already made his name in baseball.[1]

Little is known of his early playing days, but by 1899 he joined the New London Whalers in the Connecticut League, hitting for a .244 average while playing third base and outfield, and pitching to a 7-6 record in 14 games. He played only a few games for New London in 1900, but Kennedy began the inaugural Southern Association season in 1901 at short stop.

In the opening game in Chattanooga on May 2, he reached on an error, scored a run, and made an error while making a putout with three assists in the field. Nashville won in 10 innings, 15-14; the next day he dropped from seventh to eighth in the lineup but gathered his first hit on a single as his team won its second game 6-4.

By mid-season, he had moved to first in the batting order to take advantage of his speed. Nashville ended the season 78-45 to capture the flag; Kennedy ended the year with 50 stolen bases and was reportedly off to the major leagues.

snapper_kennedy_fbBefore re-joining Nashville for 1902, the 23-year-old played center field for the Chicago Orphans (now the Cubs) on May 1 against Detroit.[2] He was hitless in five plate appearances against George Mullin, striking out once. It was Kennedy’s only major league game.

When he returned to Nashville, Dennis Lowney had been signed from Little Rock to play shortstop, and Kennedy took his turn in center field where he played outstanding defense on the outfield hills of Athletic Park.

He made good use of his swiftness in a 7-1 win over New Orleans that kept the Pelicans eight games behind the leading Nashville ball club. Lead-off batter Roy Montgomery socked a long fly ball to right center in the first inning and Kennedy chased after it. Losing his balance just as he grabbed the ball with his glove, he rolled to the ground but held on to rob Montgomery of a sure double.

The Nashville American reported the play with near-poetic expression:

“Kennedy’s catch of Montgomery’s drive in the first inning was a thing of beauty and a source of much joy to the jubilant fans. Sherman fell sprawling on his back upon the bank in right center just as he got his left hand on the sphere, but he clung to the ball, nevertheless. It was a great play.”[3]

Suffering from a knee injury during the middle of the season, Snapper’s stolen base total was reduced to 29. He played in 98 games, hitting .261, and Nashville captured a second-consecutive pennant.

He signed a new contract for the 1903 season, but for whatever reason manager and club-owner Newt Fisher asked Kennedy to approve his being loaned to New Orleans for two weeks to begin the season. Refusing the assignment, on May 30 had two hits in his first two season appearances for Nashville.

“I came to play with Nashville,” said Kennedy, “and I don’t propose to play anywhere else. I like the town and the people. I also like Newt(.) Fisher, and I will be glad to play for him and Nashville, but I will not play in any other city of the Southern League. This is final and absolute.”[4]

But on June 4 he was in New Orleans in an experiment that did not work.  He did not show for the Pelicans game against Birmingham the next day, and on June 6 he shows up as Nashville’s shortstop against Little Rock.

Battling from third place with Memphis and Little Rock ahead in the standings, stealing three bases in a double header with Montgomery on August 12 and two more on August 15, adding a sacrifice against Birmingham.

“Sherman Kennedy has “come back to life.” Sherman is doing his best now and his fast work on the base lines is a joy to the Nashville fans. “Let’s get Kennedy on a base,” is the cry now. Sherman stole two more bases yesterday. If he keeps up this work he will lead the league “a block” in the matter of stolen bases.”[5]

He stole four bases, including a steal of home, and was four-for-four at the plate against Memphis on August 25, fans took up a collection amounting to $32.00 to show appreciation for his specialty work on the base paths. Near season’s end he stole nine bases in 11 games, and finished with a team-best 35 stolen bases (James Smith lead the league with 48, splitting time between Shreveport and New Orleans). Nashville fell to fifth to end the season.

On February 27, 1904, Kennedy arrived in Nashville with his wife and new baby with him. It was the earliest he had shown up to prepare for any season, and Newt Fisher was pleased.

“Manager Fisher and Kennedy spent Saturday at the home of the former, talking over the prospects for the coming season and discussing the players who have been signed. To-day they will be at Athletic Park and will get into uniforms.”[6]

Fisher wanted Sherman to play first base, and he performed admirably at his new position. But the tide turned in a game on June 23 with his club hovering around the .500 mark. Kennedy muffed a throw to first by second baseman Tom Smith. The error was so unlike the agile first sacker that the crowd began to boo.

“There was one of two reasons for Kennedy’s rank error; either he was not able to handle the ball or he dropped it purposely. If it was the first reason, then he is not a fit player for that important position. If it was the second reason, then it is the plain duty of Newt Fisher to put him on the bench and keep him there until he learns what the duty of a ball player is and does not let his temper run away with him…”[7]

The next week Kennedy apologized, and he began to play up to the standard his teammates expected. But on September 17 his father contacted him to say the Kennedy’s young son Frank, who had been ill, was not doing well.

…Kennedy left for his home in Connaught <sic>, O., on a night train, and because of the fact that the season is so nearly over will not return. Kennedy’s child has been seriously ill for some time, and this is no doubt the cause of his indifferent work of late. Other hard luck has also been staring “Ken” in the face for several weeks, and he was almost broken down from the heavy strain on his mind. Kennedy has many friends here who will regret the news of his child’s illness.”

Little Frank soon recovered, and Nashville finished with a 72-67 record, 11 games behind pennant-winning Memphis. Talk began to circulate that Kennedy would sign with New Orleans for 1905. Instead he played for Shreveport where he led the league with 57 stolen bases, tied with 51 sacrifice hits, and batted .290.

For an unknown reason, he did not return to Shreveport until July 11, 1908. The Pirates were in a neck-and-neck battle with New Orleans and Birmingham for the top league spot, and he was immediately inserted into the lineup in a double header with Little Rock. He had two hits and stole a base in the split.

His speed and his bat did not return to him. When the season was over, his batting average had fallen to .189 in 69 games.

Whether another calamity had befallen him is not clear, but his late-season appearance and anemic performance may have spoken for his retirement from baseball.

A 5’10”, 165-lb. switch-hitter, he played all positions except pitcher and catcher for Nashville between 1901-1904. His team won the first two Southern Association championships. “Snapper” had a .292 batting average, and averaged 37 stolen bases in his four seasons with the club.

At the age of 66, he passed away on August 15, 1945 in Pasadena, Texas and is buried at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery in Houston.

*Author’s note: It appears Sherman Kennedy is often confused with Albert Kennedy; baseball-reference.com shows both players with the same nickname “Snapper”.

SOURCES

Ancestry.com

Baseball-reference.com

Nashville American

Newspapers.com

Retrosheet.org

© 2016 by Skip Nipper. All Rights Reserved.

[1] 1900 United States Federal Census, accessed November 1, 2016

[2] Lee, Bill. (2003) The Baseball Necrology: The Post-Baseball Lives and Deaths of Over 7,600 Major League Players and Others. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc.

[3] Nashville American, July 16, 1902, p. 6

[4] Nashville American, May 31, 1903, p. 8

[5] Ibid. August 16, 1903, p. 6

[6] Ibid. February 29, 1904, p. 3

[7] Ibid. June 24, 1904, p. 7

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