- Card series: Beginnings: 1880's
- City: Des Moines
- Team: Prohibitionists
- League: Western Association
Theodore A. Kennedy (1865-1907) was an ill-starred young pitcher who learned from the best, executed effectively and, as so many of his era, flamed out early with a ruined shoulder. In our day, with Tommy John surgery nearly a rite of passage for aspiring big-leaguers, it is sobering to consider the plight of the young men of the 19th century who were thrown into unrelenting action and treated as disposable cogs in professional baseball’s juggernaut. Such was the lot of Ted Kennedy. As a youth, he was ball boy in Peoria studying the not-yet-Old-Hoss Charlie Radbourn, the star pitcher for the town’s very fine amateur squad. Radbourn was said to have been the first to master the overhand curve delivery that would carry him to greatness with Providence years later. Radbourn showed Ted the grip and Ted worked hard to learn it. He emerged in mid-west circles as one of the most promising young pitchers in 1884, a year of turmoil in the major leagues that left minor league teams scrambling for talent. The next season Kennedy got his break when Cap Anson brought him to Chicago. The Chicago Tribune‘s June 12 edition reported: “The Chicago team will place a new man in the pitcher’s box today—Ned Kennedy, until recently with the Keokuk nine, and looked upon as one of the strongest unengaged pitchers in the country.” Ted’s astounding strikeout record had made that reputation. Before the call-up, his highlight was 24 Ks, including 17 straight, in a game with no putouts by the first baseman against Burlington in October of ’84. Sadly, Ted’s arm didn’t survive his rookie year. After hurling three games in two days, his shoulder gave out. Though he pitched one more year in the majors and a few in the minors, he was never the same. Kennedy later remembered, “I was terribly lame – had to pitch underhand. Every game I pitched that season it was like a rusty knife was being thrust into my shoulder.”
- In retirement, Kennedy found a lucrative career in sporting goods, eventually selling out to the Spalding empire but continuing to teach youngsters how to throw the curve
- Ars Longa is indebted to the research of SABR’s Craig Lammers for much of this bio
- Kennedy’s uniform color on this card was changed in July, 2017 from black to blue to reflect recent reliable research by Craig Brown & friends at Threads of Our Game. One card was previously released featuring a black uniform.