Saluting a slugger from the Northeast

The Oldtimers Bats and Balls Association last week honored three individuals, including former Major League Baseball great and Crescentville native Del Ennis.

Ennis, who died in 1996 at age 70 from complications of diabetes, was posthumously given the William “Pickles” Kennedy Memorial Award during an Aug. 10 luncheon at Randi’s Restaurant & Bar, at 1619 Grant Ave., in Bustleton.

Liz Ennis, his widow, accepted the award. Former Phillies outfielder Doug Clemens, longtime Phillies public relations director Larry Shenk and former Philadelphia Athletics and Phillies pitcher Bobby Shantz joined her.

Shantz, a left-hander who also pitched for six other teams in a career that stretched from 1949–64, is best known for winning 24 games and earning the American League Most Valuable Player award in 1952 for the Athletics. He also won eight Gold Glove awards, was selected for three all-star games and was a member of the 1958 New York Yankees team that captured the World Series.

Similarly, Ennis — who grew up at 566 E. Godfrey Ave. — was an outstanding player in his era. He played for the Phillies from 1946–56, the St. Louis Cardinals in 1957–58 and the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox in 1959. He was named to three all-star teams.

An outfielder, he held the Phillies’ record for home runs with 259 until 1980, when Mike Schmidt passed him. He is now third on the list, having been passed by Ryan Howard in May.

Before joining the Phillies, he served in the U.S. Navy from 1943–46. The Sporting News named him Rookie of the Year in ’46, when he hit .313 with 17 home runs and 73 runs batted in.

His best season was in 1950, when the Phillies’ “Whiz Kids” won the National League pennant. He hit .311 with 31 homers and 126 RBIs.

One memorable game came against Boston in 1952, when Robin Roberts worked 17 innings and threw more than 300 pitches. Ennis won the game with a home run in the bottom of the 17th.

For his career, he had 288 home runs, 2,063 hits and 1,284 RBIs. He knocked in more than 100 runs seven times.

Yet, the Phillies never retired his №14. Liz Ennis, a Strawberry Mansion native who met her husband at the old Liberty Bell Park racetrack, wore a №14 pin at last week’s luncheon.

Jim Bunning and Pete Rose later wore that number, which was retired after Bunning was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Following his retirement, Ennis operated Del Ennis Lanes, a bowling alley in Huntingdon Valley.

Shenk described Ennis as his hero and recalled telling the late Phillies player and broadcaster Richie Ashburn that he was impressed with the basher’s RBI totals.

“Who do you think was on base all those times?” Ashburn jokingly replied.

Shenk also addressed the persistent booing that Ennis endured in his hometown. Some say fans turned on Ennis because he struck out too many times, but his season highs in that category were just 65 in 1946 and ’52.

Howard, the Phillies slugger, does that in half a season, Shenk said.

“Sometimes,” he joked, “it seems like a week.”

After being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals following the 1956 season, Ennis received a standing ovation from Phillies fans on his first return home.

Shenk is semi-retired but still works for the Phillies.

“I’m in charge of the pitching staff,” he joked.

Actually, he is vice president for alumni relations.

All of the people in attendance signed a commemorative poster that was presented to Liz Ennis at the end of the luncheon.

Others who received the William “Pickles” Kennedy Memorial Award were Larry Shane and Tom Wood.

Shane played college baseball and football at West Chester from 1954–56.

Later, he was head football coach at West Philadelphia High School from 1967–72 and head baseball coach at Villanova University from 1972–85.

In 1985 and ’89, he coached the United States to gold medals in men’s softball at the Maccabi Games. The team won a silver medal in 1993. He retired from Villanova in 1998 as assistant athletic director, but unretired and now is an assistant baseball coach at Haverford School.

Wood, a Northeast High School graduate, played minor league baseball in the St. Louis Cardinals organization from 1957–59 and was a star in the Pen-Del League through the 1960s.

Kennedy was a former star basketball player at Abraham Lincoln High School and Temple University, where he helped the Owls reach the Final Four. He went on to play for the Philadelphia Warriors for one season in the NBA, then spent several years playing minor league baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

The Oldtimers meet four times a year, at noon on the second Wednesday of the month, for lunch at Randi’s. The group includes ex-professional athletes, such as former Philadelphia Stars and Eagles punter Sean Landeta.••

The final meeting of the year will be on Nov. 9. The 2012 meetings are scheduled for Feb. 8, May 9, Aug. 8 and Nov. 14. For more information, call Chuck Newns (215–612–0476), Ron Fritz (215–491–9380), Jack Purdy (215–968–0404) or Ron March (856–589–5223).

Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215–354–3034 or twaring@bsmphilly.com