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Bob Lennon

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Robert Albert Lennon
(Archie)

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[edit] Biographical Information

Bob Lennon earned his first big league cup of coffee with the New York Giants following a Triple Crown-winning season in the minors in 1954. That year, he hit .354 with 64 home runs and 161 RBI for the Nashville Volunteers of the Southern Association.

Lennon was an outfielder for 16 years, three in the Major Leagues (1954, 1956 and 1957) and 16 in the minors (1945-1950 and 1952-1961), losing one year to the military. He served as a corporal in the U. S. Army for one year during the Korean War (BP). He missed the 1951 season, but was released before his two-year hitch was up because of back trouble. He had three cups of coffee with the New York Giants (1954 and 1956) and Chicago Cubs (1957). He hit .281 with 278 home runs and 1,067 runs batted in his 16 years in the minors.

Lennon was born on September 15, 1928, in Brooklyn, NY, the son of Martin Lennon, who was a New York City policeman. His grandparents had come from Ireland. He had four brothers and two sisters. Three of the brothers joined an uncle on the New York Fire Department. A younger brother, John Lennon, played two seasons in the Giants farm system before a beaning ended his career. Bob attended Brooklyn Specialty Trades High School, later known as George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School, and played on Police Athletic League and Kiwanis League teams. He also played club basketball and football.

When Bob was 15, a Brooklyn Dodgers "bird-dog" scout, Turk Karam, took him to Ebbets Field for a workout in front of General Manager Branch Rickey. The Dodgers signed the promising left-handed hitter the next year, after he turned 16. That was in early 1945, when teams were scrambling to find players who were too young or too old to be drafted into World War II. He married Florence Shearman.

Lennon was 25 years old when he broke into the big leagues on September 9, 1954 with the Giants. Lennon hat hit 64 home runs for the Nashville Vols that year, but his most memorable homer came on April 30, 1957, when he was playing for the Cubs: "It was what I had dreamed about," he recalled in a 1993 interview. He hit it in Ebbets Field, where he had rooted for the Dodgers as a boy. It was his only major league home run.

He won the Southern Association Triple Crown and posted an OPS of 1.145 in 1954. His league-leading totals included 139 runs, 210 hits, 64 homers, 161 RBI, a .345 batting average, .734 slugging percentage and 447 total bases. He hit two home runs in a game nine times, three in a game twice and four in a doubleheader, but, in his recollection, no grand slam. He homered once in every 9.5 at-bats. He struck out 97 times in an era when few players fanned 100 times in a season. Despite his dominating performance, he drew only 65 walks,

Writers described him as blond and powerfully built at six feet and 200 pounds, a speedy centerfielder with a strong arm. While he was hitting all those home runs, he occasionally filled in as a relief pitcher. His Nashville manager, Hugh Poland, praised his hard work and pleasing personality.

At the end of the Pacific Coast League season in 1957, the Detroit Tigers claimed him on waivers. He joined the Tigers at Yankee Stadium, but as soon as he was issued a uniform, the club informed him that they were returning him to the Cubs. They said they had just found out about his bad arm.

During that season, Lennon and his wife, Florence, who had no children, adopted a baby girl with the help of the Montreal Royals team physician's connections. They named her Kathleen. Their son Bobby was born soon afterward, and Billy and Debby came along later.

He said his wife urged him to quit in 1961: "We had our third child that year... and I wasn't going anywhere. I wanted to keep playing, but I'd just bounce around Triple-A or maybe Double-A." When he wasn't playing winter ball, he had worked in the off-seasons as an iron worker. He had his union card (Local 580 in New York) and easily found a job. But he acknowledged that the break from baseball was painful: "I missed it every spring... the first three or four or five years... From, what, [age] 16 to 33, that was my life."

Lennon later did some "bird-dog" scouting for the New York Yankees. During the 1990s he underwent two open-heart surgeries. In 2001 he said he still got a couple of requests for autographs every week: "Sometimes they want to send you money. Hey, I'm just glad somebody remembers me." Lennon died at age 76 on June 14, 2005, at his home in Dix Hills, NY and was buried at Calverton National Cemetery in Calverton, NY. His wife, four children and six grandchildren survived him. His only surviving sibling, his sister Mary Reynolds, described him as a gentle, loving man.

[edit] Career Highlights

  • Won Triple Crown in the Southern Association in 1954
  • Set Southern Association record for home runs in a season, 1954 (64)
  • In 1954, he hit two home runs in a game nine times, three in a game twice and four in a doubleheader

[edit] Events

[edit] Sources

Principal sources for Bob Lennon include newspaper obituaries (OB), government Veteran records (VA,CM,CW), Stars & Stripes (S&S), Sporting Life (SL), The Sporting News (TSN), The Sports Encyclopedia:Baseball 2006 by David Neft & Richard Cohen (N&C), old Who's Who in Baseballs {{{WW}}} (WW), old Baseball Registers {{{BR}}} (BR) , old Daguerreotypes by TSN {{{DAG}}} (DAG), Stars&Stripes (S&S), The Baseball Necrology by Bill Lee (BN), Pat Doyle's Professional Ballplayer DataBase (PD), The Baseball Library (BL), Baseball in World War II Europe by Gary Bedingfield (GB) {{{MORE}}} and independent research by Walter Kephart (WK) and Frank Russo (FR) and others.

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