By DON McCORMACK - firstname.lastname@example.org
Fifth of a Series...
Sherman Montgomery Kennedy is far from the most well-known athlete to ever come out of Conneaut. In fact, most have probably never heard nor read his name previously.
However, Kennedy, who was known to most as “Snapper,” for unknown reasons, may very well have been the best athlete to ever come out of Conneaut.
After all, how many gentlemen who hail from the city located the city located in the extreme northeast corner of Ashtabula County can lay claim to being a professional athlete?
But it doesn’t stop there, though.
Sherman Montgomery “Snapper” Kennedy was a professional — in two sports — including a trip to the majors in baseball.
Kennedy was born on Friday, Nov. 1, 1878 on the east side of Conneaut.
Not much is known about the son of Benjamin Franklin and Clara (Fenton) Kennedy during his days growing up here in Ashtabula County.
The oldest of five children — and the only boy — Sherman was followed by sisters Neeta, Charlotte, Lois and Sarah.
By the time he turned 18 and graduated from Conneaut High School, he had already caught the eye of baseball scouts.
Kennedy, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound switch-hitting infielder-outfielder who threw right-handed, signed on with the Cedar Rapids Rabbits, a Class B team in the Western Association, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
In 1897, Kennedy jumped headlong into professional baseball player, appearing in 122 games — 116 at shortstop, four as an outfielder and two as a pinch-hitter — and he performed well.
In his inaugural season, Kennedy hit .297, socking 37 doubles, seven triples and three home runs. On a team named the Rabbits, he had perhaps the most hop in his step, stealing 43 bases and scoring 119 runs, going 141 for 509 at the plate.
However, Kennedy suffered some type of injury late in his rookie season and though its nature has been lost to time, it caused him to sit out the 1898 season.
In 1899, he returned to the game, signing on with the Class F New London Whalers of the Connecticut League.
Kennedy did a little of everything as he tried to bounce back from the unknown injury, appearing in 37 games in the outfield, one at third base and even pitched in 14 games.
He hit .244, going 59 for 242, scoring 34 runs and stealing five bags.
On the mound, Kennedy made 13 starts and one relief appearance, posting a 7-6 record. He completed 12 of his 13 starts, even throwing a shutout.
He would never again appear on the mound.
Kennedy married the former Eva Celia Palmer, herself a Conneaut native from the Clarks Corners section of town, on Aug. 11, 1900.
Eva was 14, Sherman 21at the time of their marriage, one that would span almost a half-century, 45 years.
He began the 1900 season with the Whalers, appearing in six games from May 10 through June 5, but suffered another injury that ended his season prematurely on June 5.
Kennedy was off to a good start that season, hitting at a .308 clip (8 for 23), with a double and three runs scored when the injury bug bit.
Kennedy continued his journey through baseball’s bushes, hooking up with the Nashville Volunteers, a Class A team in the Southern Association.
It was perhaps during the 1901 season that Kennedy’s love for the south was perhaps established.
On the field, Kennedy did very well for the Volunteers, playing in 115 games and hitting a fine .323, going 151 for 468 at the plate.
That fine season earned Kennedy another go around with Nashville in 1902. He played in 95 games for the Volunteers, hitting .261, going 109 for 418 and rapping 17 doubles, six triples and a home run.
Little did Kennedy know, someone was noticing his fine all-around play.
Getting the call
In late April of that season, the Conneaut native was summoned by the Chicago Orphans, a member of the National League.
As in the major leagues.
On May 1, 1902, Orphans manager Frank Selee penciled Kennedy’s name into the lineup as an outfielder for a game against the visiting Cincinnati Reds at the West Side Grounds, the Orphans’ home stadium.
Kennedy made five plate appearances, taking the collar with an 0-for-5 effort, that included a strikeout. He handled all five of his chances in the outfield without incident in a game that ended in a scoreless tie, the first of four deadlocks the Orphans would play that season.
In 1903, the Orphans became known as the Chicago Cubs.
That was the extent of Kennedy’s time with the Orphans, who went on to finish 68-69, fifth in the eight-team National League, 46 games behind the pennant-winning Pittsburgh Pirates.
Despite their mediocre record, the Orphans were popular with their fans, finishing second in the league in attendance, ahead of even the first-place Pirates, drawing 263,700 fans to the West Side Grounds.
Perhaps the Orphans needed a fill-in for a day and summoned Kennedy, but whatever the reason, Kennedy became the ninth man born in Ashtabula County to appear in at least one major-league game, the second from Conneaut.
Kennedy returned to Nashville to finish out the 1902 season with the Volunteers.
At age 23, Kennedy was not finished with the game. He would spend four more seasons, all in the minors, all in the Southern Association, though at the highest level during that time, Class A.
He never again got the call from the majors.
Kennedy split the 1903 season with the Birmingham Barons and Nashville. In 95 games, he hit an outstanding .335, going 75 for 224 in 95 games combined for the two teams.
However, his .323 average for Nashville earned him a spot with the Barons, late in the season, and the Conneaut native flourished, hitting at a stellar .414 clip. In a dozen games, Kennedy went 12 for 29.
He returned to Nashville for the 1904 season, hitting .277 in 132 games, going 138 for 498.
At age 26, Kennedy moved on to the Shreveport Pirates. In 1905, he hit a more-than-respectable .291 in 131 games, going 138 for 475 at the plate.
That would be his last season as a regular as in 1906, he appeared in only 69 games the Louisiana-based Pirates, posting the lowest batting average of his career — .190 — going 51 for 269.
At age 27, Kennedy’s baseball career had reached its conclusion after a decade on the diamond.
At the fore
Somewhere along his journey, Kennedy became proficient in the game of golf and, according to The History of Ashtabula County, followed the same path he did in baseball, becoming a club professional. The book says Kennedy became partial to the warmer climate of the south during his time in the minors playing baseball.
The History of Ashtabula County says Kennedy became a club pro in Corpus Christi, Texas, where he even designed a course.
In the Thursday, July 30, 1936 edition of the Emmetsburg Reporter, a small-town newspaper in Palo Alto County, Iowa, a front-page, above-the-fold, three paragraph briefs reads:
Golf pro giving
Sherman Kennedy, golf pro fro Laredo, Texas, is in Emmetsburg this week, and will give lessons to beginners and others who care to avail themselves to his services.
A number of local players have already arranged to be tutored by Mr. Kennedy, who has been teaching the game for several years.
His rates are reasonable, and since it is not often that a pro visits the local course, many others will no doubt wish to take advantage of his professional services.
One can only speculate if “Snapper” even thought about letting on to those he was instructing that he was not only an adept golfer, but a former major leaguer.
He and his wife, Eva, had eight children between 1903 and 1924. Frank, Harry, Sherman, Clara, Kenneth, Ellen, James and William, all deceased, Ellen being the last to pass away in 1998.
Sherman Montgomery “Snapper” Kennedy died on July 31, 1945 in Pasadena, Texas at age 67. News of his death was never mentioned in the Star Beacon.
Eva lived another 15 years, passing on Aug. 11, 1960 in Los Angeles, the victim of a stroke.
Sherman rests in Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery in Houston, Texas.
McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at email@example.com.