Friday, January 6, 2017

In Memoriam: "Superman" Pennington

Baseball lost a former star on Wednesday, but most fans may have never heard of him. His name is Art Pennington.  He played in the old Negro Leagues in the 1940s primarily with the Chicago American Giants.
2009 Topps Allen & Ginter

Pennington was a versatile player on the diamond. He had power and speed while playing several positions too.  He finished near or at the top in stolen bases and batting average consistently with the like of Jackie Robinson and Sam Jethroe.  Pennington appeared in two All Star games-1942 and 1950.

There is an old story that when a Pennington was a teenager, he faced the great Satchel Paige.  Paige said to the youngster "Come on up, little boy" with Pennington telling him to just "throw it and duck".  Well, Paige got the best of Pennington that day but he hit well enough overall as a pro to have it become his signature phrase.

Like many other negro leaguers, Pennington also played winter ball in Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela.  Most black players loved playing in these countries as there were no prejudices and they lived as free men.  Pennington held his old own during the winter leagues playing with and against the likes of Ray Dandridge, Willie Wells , Josh Gibson and several big league stars too.

After his stints in the Negro Leagues and winter ball, Pennington played several seasons in the minor leagues.  Even though he had success in the minors (hitting over .300 for multiple seasons), he never got the call to the big leagues.  The majors were still being integrated and the teams that signed the black players only signed a token few even though more were qualified.

Pennigton's other big highlight was hitting home runs off of big leaguers Sal Maglie and Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean in an exhibition game.  Pennington was 93 years old.

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