Dead Dead Ball Ballplayer of the Week: Brickyard Kennedy
This is Extra Mustard’s Dead Dead Ball Ballplayer of the Week, a new feature we’ll have on Thursdays to help you get through the baseball off-season.
Brickyard Kennedy was a pretty good pitcher for 12 major-league seasons in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but that’s not why we’re writing about him. No, what makes Kennedy interesting is the time he was so embarrassed that he left his team and disappeared home to Ohio only to be embarrassed further.
William Park Kennedy, also known as “Roaring Bill” but mostly called “Brickyard,” grew up in Bellaire, Ohio. He got the nickname because of the job he worked in the off-season. He made his debut with Brooklyn’s National League team (the precursor to the Dodgers) in 1892, and considering what happened next, it’s a wonder he stuck around for 12 seasons.
After the game, Kennedy, his Society for American Baseball Research bio recounts, “bought a loud $50 suit with his first paycheck and then took his change in dollar bills so he could flash a big wad. Swiftly taken to the cleaners by New York sharps, an embarrassed Kennedy fled home to Bellaire, once there he was cleaned out of the rest of his cash by “sympathetic” locals, and did not rejoin the Brooklyn team for several weeks.”
In Kennedy’s final season, 1903, he was pitching for the Pirates in the first World Series when Red Sox fans serenaded him with an interesting chant. Is it possible they remembered the humiliating incident 11 years later?
Kennedy, you seem to pitch so badly
Take a back seat and sit down.
Kennedy, you are a dead one
And you ought to leave the town.
Pittsburg needs a few good pitchers,
Such as Boston’s pennant lifters.
Phillipi, you are the only, only, only, one.
After the 1903 Series, Kennedy pitched a few more years in the minors but by 1907 his career seemed over.
Kennedy “is no longer in the harness, the sun having set on his career,” an article in The Pittsburgh Press from Aug. 27 of that year read. “Until within the last two months he had been pitching for Dayton, of the Central League, but refusing to keep in condition, he failed to win any of his games and was benched.”
According to Baseball Reference, Kennedy actually had a 5–1 record in 10 games during the 1907 season, and he even returned to pitch a bit for Dayton in 1908, at the age of 40. He kept pitching at the semipro level before he died of tuberculosis in 1915 at the age of 47.