Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Art Kenney


Date and Place of Birth: April 29, 1916 Milford, Massachusetts

Died: March 12, 2014 Littleton, New Hampshire

Baseball Experience: Major League
Military Unit:
398th Bomb Group USAAF

Area Served: European Theater of Operations


Arthur J "Art" Kenney was born on April 29, 1916 in Milford, Massachusetts. He attended Holy Cross College where – together with Bill “Lefty” Lefebvre, who would later pitch for the Braves and Senators – he became a standout pitcher.


Both the Braves and Red Sox took a keen interest in the young left-hander. On April 20, 1937, the Braves were hard-pressed to beat Holy Cross, 6-5, with Kenney on the mound for the collegians. The following spring the Red Sox got a look at Kenney when Holy Cross beat them, 3-2, and Kenney fanned Jimmie Foxx twice.


It was the Braves Kenney signed with after graduating in June 1938 and he immediately joined the major league club, making his major league debut against the Philadelphia Phillies on July 1. Kenney came on in relief of Dick Errickson in the ninth inning and allowed one run in a 5-0 loss. His second, and final major league outing, also took place against the Phillies on July 4. In the second game of a doubleheader, Kenney pitched the last inning and a third in a 10-2 defeat.


Kenney was assigned to Hartford of the Eastern League for the remainder of the season where he was 1-2 with a 9.41 ERA. Kenney began the 1939 season with Toronto of the International League but was soon assigned to Evansville of the Three-I League, where illness hampered his performance and he retired from the game.


Later that year, Kenney pitched for the semi-pro Littleton team in the Twin-State League, and took a job at Newmarket High School teaching English and French.


Kenney continued to hurl for semi-pro teams in 1940. In May 1940, he pitched a three-hitter for Ed Paterson's Painters in the Sunset League. The Painters defeated the Amesbury Sacred Hearts, 10-0, and Kenney struck out 13 of the 25 batters to face him in the 7-inning rout. He also helped himself offensively with a couple of triples. In August, he was pitching for the Littleton Collegians and threw a six-hitter against the Berlin Red Sox. Then, in September, he was on the mound for the Dover team.


On December 27, 1941, Kenney entered military service with the Army Air Corps. He spent one year in Technical School at Geiger Field, Washington, where he pitched for Geiger Field in the Army-Workers League of Spokane. Attached to the 398th Bomb Group as a communications officer, Captain Kenney served with the group at Rapid City Army Air Base in South Dakota between June 1943 and April 1944, before leaving the USA for England.


Stationed at Nuthampstead airfield until June 1945. "We would give instructions to pilots about what to do if the plane went down and dealt with everything from the mechanics of radar, to escape strategies, to devising secret information that we would write on rice paper so it could be eaten if crew members were captured,'' he told writer John W. Gearan. "It was tough when a plane was lost, but even tougher when dead crews members were still aboard when a B-17 made it back to base."


When off-duty, Kenney pitched for the 398th Bomb Group baseball team – known as Lew’s Yanks. On opening day in April 1945, he beat the 339th Fighter Group, 10-1.


Kenney was discharged from MacDill Field at the end of 1945. He went back to school and earned an advanced degree at the University of New Hampshire. He served as principal of North Reading High School in Massachusetts for 32 years.


Art Kenney passed away on March 12, 2014 in Littleton, New Hampshire.


Created January 8, 2008. Updated January 11, 2015.

Copyright © 2015 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.