Friday, June 20, 2014

Card #65: Terry Kennedy

Who Can It Be Now?
Terrance Edward Kennedy was born on June 4, 1956, in Euclid, Ohio, and grew up in Mesa, Arizona.  He was the youngest child of five, and like many boys he idolized his father -- the late Bob Kennedy, who played in 16 seasons between 1939 and 1957.  

Kennedy was not drafted coming out of high school at St. Mary's High School in Phoenix.  He watched his best friend, Alan Wirth, get selected by the San Francisco Giants in the third round of the 1974 draft. Kennedy's problem was that he had not figured out how to play baseball in his own body.  As he told The Hardball Times, he grew about seven inches in 15 months between his junior and senior years of high school.  

So, his father, who at that time was the assistant General Manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, called the two guys whom he knew in the college ranks to get Terry a place to play.  Those two guys were former Cardinal Eddie Stanky at South Alabama and former Brave and Red (and future Mariners General Manager) Woody Woodward at Florida State University. 

Things worked out for Kennedy to attend FSU and, there, he was extremely successful -- he was a two-time All-American there and was named National Player of the Year in 1976. Indeed, he was inducted into the FSU Sports Hall of Fame in 1982 for his baseball prowess.

Coming off that successful college career, Kennedy was selected in the First Round of the 1977 June Draft with the sixth pick overall by the Cardinals (even though Kennedy's dad had, by this time, moved on to the Chicago Cubs to be their General Manager).  In a wire report story from 1977, Kennedy is quoted as saying that the Cardinals "were just about my first choice" and negotiated a contract quickly along with his agent -- his mother.  In that interview with The Hardball Times, however, he noted that it was his father -- the GM of the Cubs -- who negotiated the contract with the Cardinals.

Kennedy moved up the ranks in the Cardinals chain quickly, as one would expect a top-notch college player to do.  He battered the poor high school kids he faced during his 12 games at Johnson City in the Appalachian League to the tune of .590/.673/1.103 -- yes, a patriot OPS of 1.776.  He did not do as well in the Florida State League -- a league known to suppress hitting.  But, that did not deter the Cardinals from moving him up first to Double-A Arkansas in the Texas League and then to Triple-A Springfield in the American Association in 1978. Over those two stops, Kennedy hit 20 HR, drove in exactly 100 runs, and hit .309/.402/.495. 

He earned a late cup of coffee from the Cardinals in 1978 and did not hit well.  That, combined with the fact that the Cardinals already had another good hitting catcher by the name of Ted Simmons, meant that Kennedy started the 1979 season back in Triple A. As his previous results indicated he would, he continued to hit the ball well enough to show he deserved to be in the major leagues.  He got that opportunity in late June of 1979.  Simmons was placed on the disabled list, and Kennedy was called up to take his place on the roster. Kennedy split time with Steve Swisher while Simmons was out, and then Kennedy was sent back down when Simmons returned.

But that did not solve the logjam behind the plate for the Cardinals.  It wasn't like the Cards could move one of them to first base to clear thing up either -- not with All-Star and MVP Keith Hernandez manning that position.  The Cardinals made the best of it, though, during 1980.  Kennedy played 28 games in left field, 41 games behind the plate, and made 17 pinch hitting appearances, while Simmons spent 129 games behind the plate, 5 games in left, and 19 as a pinch hitter.

Apparently, though, Whitey Herzog wasn't particularly impressed with either catcher -- that, or other teams coveted these two catchers so much that he just had to trade them. That's because Herzog traded both Simmons and Kennedy during the 1980 winter meetings. Simmons went to the Milwaukee Brewers, while Kennedy was sent to the San Diego Padres. He was the centerpiece of the deal for the Padres, who also received John Littlefield, Al Olmstead, Kim Seaman, Steve Swisher and John Urrea in exchange for Rollie Fingers, Bob Shirley, Gene Tenace, and Bob Geren (who was the player to be named later in the trade).  

Freed from the shackles of being a backup catcher, Kennedy blossomed in San Diego.  He caught about 85% to 90% of the Padres games between 1981 and 1986.  He played in three All-Star games -- 1981, 1983 and 1985 -- and was named the catcher on the NL Silver Slugger team in 1983 when he hit 17 HR, drove in 98 runs, and hit .295/.328/.486. He also had some defensive chops -- leading the league twice in baserunners cut down attempting to steal -- though he also was among the lead leaders in most errors by a catcher in 1981 (1st), 1983 (4th), 1984 (2nd), and 1985 (5th).

After the 1986 season, though, the Padres found themselves with a surplus of catching. Hotshot prospect Benito Santiago had torn up the PCL and hit well in a cameo at the end of the year, while Kennedy was 31/turning 32 in June of 1987 and was about to make over $1 million in salary.  As a result, the Padres decided to trade Kennedy and pitcher Mark Williamson to the Baltimore Orioles for Storm Davis.  

With the O's, Kennedy enjoyed a very successful 1987 in which he hit 13 HR in the first half of the year and was named to the All-Star team.  He tailed off after the break, and then saw the Orioles sign reclamation project Mickey Tettleton at the beginning of April.  It probably didn't help that those Orioles were just awful either -- they lost 21 in a row to start the year, remember -- and Kennedy's playing time dwindled as Tettleton's increased.  

So, for the 1989 season, Kennedy found himself packing his bags again.  He was traded in a "challenge" trade of sorts, going to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for future major league manager and certified, card-carrying member of the Backup Catchers Union, Bob Melvin.  Kennedy did not play particularly well in 1989, but he did get a second unsuccessful trip to the World Series with the Giants.   He split time in 1989 with Kirt Manwaring, in 1990 with Gary Carter, and in 1991 with Steve Decker and Manwaring.  

He retired at the age of 36 after the 1991 season.  He stated that he was "pretty much done physically.  The catching had taken a tool on my legs and I couldn't generate much offense any more . . . At the end of '91 I knew it was time to go home."  So, he did.

Mustache? Nope, not even a stray wisp shows up on Kennedy's face on this card.

Family Ties
As I mentioned above, Terry's father Bob Kennedy played nearly two decades in the major leagues.  Bob broke in as a 19-year-old with the team of his youth -- the Chicago White Sox -- for whom he worked as a vendor at Comiskey Park, according to Baseball-Reference Bullpen.  Bob is an interesting character himself in that he spent a little over three years in the Naval Aviation and Marine Aviation programs during World War II and trained fellow major leaguer Ted Williams in flying.  

In addition to Bob Sr., Terry's brother Bob, Jr. also played in the St. Louis Cardinals organization (as the wire report about Terry getting drafted also noted).  Bob Jr. later became a scout for the Seattle Mariners, the Chicago Cubs, and the Houston Astros.

Trivial Pursuit
In Kennedy's playing career, he and his father hold the distinction of being the first father-son duo to both have World Series RBI.  I don't know if anyone else has achieved that distinction since.  

In his post-playing career, Kennedy holds the distinction of being the last man to manage Rickey Henderson as a player.  Kennedy managed the San Diego Surf Dogs in the independent Golden Baseball League in 2005 and 2006; Henderson was on the 2005 team.

A Few Minutes with Tony L.
Because he was a National Leaguer for most of his career, I don't recall having any negative feelings toward Kennedy at all.  In fact, since he was a catcher and I was a little league catcher, I tended to like him.  I liked him enough that I actually sent some cards to him for him to autograph in the mid-1980s, and he was kind enough to send all of them back autographed.

After Kennedy's playing career ended, he did what many ex-players do: stayed in baseball. He was named as the manager of the Cardinals Class-A St. Petersburg team on November 25, 1992.  From there, he managed Vermont for the Expos in 1994, in the Cubs organization for three years in 1997 through 1999, for the Dodgers for a season in 2004, for the San Diego Surf Dogs in 2005 and 2006, and then in the San Diego Padres system from 2009 through 2012.  

Outside of his baseball exploits, Kennedy is realtor for Keller Williams in Chandler, Arizona (and good Lord is that a bad realtor-lean-in photo on that site). His wife also is a realtor. While he did not finish his degree at FSU, he did eventually finish his bachelor's in business administration through the University of Phoenix on what he called the "25-year plan."

Finally, and again drawing from the excellent interview on The Hardball Times, Kennedy said he was/is working on a novel about former Chicago White Sox third-baseman and Black Sox conspirator Buck Weaver and Weaver's overlap with Terry's father Bob on the Chicago sandlots in the 1930s.  If it has been released, I have not been able to find it yet.  

I hope that Terry does write that book and, if not that book, at least a book recounting both his and his father's stories about being in baseball for as long as they both were.

1 comment:

  1. Terry Kennedy's wife's name is Terry! (Well, Teresa, but still...)