John Kennedy Breaks the Color Barrier With the Philadelphia Phillies (April 22, 1957)
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS AND AWARDS:
Hit .385 with 17 home runs during his last season with the Kansas City Monarchs
John Irvin Kennedy, who played football and basketball as a youth in Jacksonville, Florida, did not play baseball until after graduating from high school. After attending Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, he played shortstop for two seasons with the Western Canadian League’s Winnipeg Buffaloes, which was managed by former Negro Leagues All-Star and future Hall of Famer Willie Wells.
In 1953, Kennedy played in the New York Giants’ farm system and the next three seasons with the Negro League’s Birmingham Black Barons and Kansas City Monarchs. In 1956, he hit .385 with 17 home runs with the Monarchs and was invited to work out with the Philadelphia Phillies the following year. The Phillies was the only National League team that had not integrated.
Although Kennedy played exceptionally well during spring training and was the second best hitter on the team, Chico Fernández, instead of Kennedy, started at shortstop on opening day, April 16, 1957.
Six days later on April 22, 1957, Kennedy became the team’s first black player. He entered the game in the eighth inning in Roosevelt Stadium as a pinch runner against the Brooklyn Dodgers. He only played in five games and made two-plate appearances before returning to the minors with a shoulder injury. He retired from baseball three years later.