Saluting a slugger from the Northeast

Cres­centville nat­ive Del En­nis passed away 15 years ago. But his leg­acy lives on for Phil­lies fans who fol­lowed the team in the 1950s.

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 No. 14. Liz En­nis, a Straw­berry Man­sion nat­ive who met her hus­band at the old Liberty Bell Park racetrack, wore a No. 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 twar­

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