Monday, October 27, 2008

#119 John Kennedy

John Kennedy by you.
It's almost Election Day in America (just eight more loooong days to go), so there's no more appropriate time than now to talk about John Kennedy...the infielder, that is. Of course, he does share a May 29 birthdate with his Presidential namesake, who was some 24 years his senior.

John had a quick path to the majors, debuting with the Senators less than two years after signing his first pro contract. In his first at-bat, on September 5, 1962, he hit a solo home run. He only spent a few months with Washington the following year, but manager Gil Hodges penciled him into the lineup as a regular for the only time in his career during the 1964 campaign. In a career-high 482 at-bats (he didn't top 300 in any other season), Kennedy hit .230 with 27 extra-base hits and 35 RBI. He played mostly at third base, but saw a good amount of time at shortstop. He was involved in the trade that brought Frank Howard and Ken McMullen to D.C., and would play in back-to-back World Series in his two seasons in Los Angeles despite peaking at .201 as a Dodger hitter. John spent 1967 in Yankee pinstripes but failed to remind fans of Phil Rizzuto, checking in at .196.

Kennedy had the dubious honor of starting 32 games for the woebegone 1969 Seattle Pilots, earning him an ensemble role in Jim Bouton's Ball Four. The most memorable anecdote concerning the light-hitting infielder involved - unsurprisingly - an at-bat in which he was called out on strikes. John argued vehemently and was ejected by the home-plate umpire. He continued his uncharacteristic tirade in the team clubhouse. When asked by teammates why he had lost his cool so dramatically, he admitted that he had taken a greenie (amphetamine pill) and that it had kicked in just as he struck out.

Midway through the following season, the ex-Pilots (now the Brewers) dealt John to Boston, where he played some of his best ball. In back-to-back seasons (1970-1971), he posted his two highest batting and slugging averages (.255/.400 and .276/.412). All told, he spent four-plus seasons in a Red Sox uniform before retiring in 1974 at age 33. Kennedy managed in the Red Sox and Athletics organizations for four years, and has also coached and scouted. More recently, he managed the North Shore Spirit of the independent Northeast League and Canadian-American Association, piloting the club to three postseason appearances in four years.

Fun fact: John owned pitcher Stan Bahnsen, batting 9-for-20 off of him, with an OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage) of 1.100. He also had great numbers against Dick Drago, Dean Chance, and Mickey Lolich; he homered twice against both Chance and Lolich.
John Kennedy (back) by you.

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