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Del Ennis

Del Ennis

Position(s):
OF, 1B, LF, RF
Born:
June 8, 1925
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
6'
Weight:
195 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-28-1946 with PHI

A prolific run producer and a three-time All-Star, Del Ennis drove in 100 or more runs seven times, spent mostly with the Philadelphia Phillies. He had his finest season in 1950, when the Phillies won their first pennant in 35 years. That season, the slugging outfielfer hit .311 with 31 homers, 126 RBI, and several clutch hits. In one stretch he belted three grand slams in a week. Back and shoulder injuries ended his career by the age of 34, but he still managed 288 homers, more than 1,200 RBI, and 2,063 hits.

Career

Ennis was born to George and Agnes Ennis in the Crescentville section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He played baseball and football at Olney High School and was mentioned as an All-State fullback. Philadelphia Phillies scout Jocko Collins came to watch one of Ennis's high school classmates pitch. When Ennis hit two long home runs, Collins tried to recruit him but Ennis was hesitant, worried that he was not ready, and unsure that he wanted to pursue a baseball career. In August 1942, Ennis finally signed with Collins to play with the Phillies' Canadian-American League team, but the league suspended operation for World War II. Ennis signed with Collins again in March 1943 and hit .348 with 19 home runs and 16 triples for the Phillies' Trenton, New Jersey Interstate League team. In September 1943, Philadelphia wanted to call Ennis to the major leagues, but he went into the United States Navy instead. Ennis saw military action in the Pacific Theater and also toured with a baseball team that included Billy Herman, Johnny Vander Meer and Schoolboy Rowe. He joined the USN on September 29, 1943 and was assigned to Sampson Naval Training Station, New York where he graduated as a signalman from "A" school at Sampson and then posted to the Hawaiian Sea Frontier. He was included on the Navy's Western PAC Tour of many Pacific Islands in 1944–1945. His naval rank was Petty Officer Third Class. Most of his service was on the island of Guam after the winter tour.

Ennis was discharged from the Navy on April 5, 1946 and joined the major league Phillies about a week later. Player-manager Ben Chapman delayed Ennis's debut since he had missed spring training, and then had him pinch-hit on April 28 against the Boston Braves - a groundout to shortstop. Chapman gave Ennis the starting job in left field, a weak spot in the Phillies' lineup. On May 5th, Ennis hit his first home run - a three-run shot in the 1st inning - and then his second, both in the second game of a doubleheader. His favorite moment was on his birthday, June 8, when his single broke up a perfect game with only four outs remaining. That month, Olney residents held a Del Ennis Night at Shibe Park with 36,356 in attendance and an estimated 20,000 turned away. Del singled with the bases loaded to drive in two runs in the first inning against the Cardinals and the Phils won. His average raised over .300 until a slump in July.

In his early career, Ennis was noted not only for his home runs and hard line drives, but also good outfield play and fast, hard baserunning. Eleven weeks after his debut, Ennis became the first Phillies rookie ever to make an All-Star team on the strength of a powerful throwing arm and his booming bat. He also became the first ever Sporting News Rookie Award winner, and finished eighth in the MVP voting after batting .313 with 17 home runs and 73 RBI and placing second in the NL in slugging average (.485) behind Musial. Here are some facts that illustrate how good Ennis was as a ballplayer in his time. He was among the TOP TEN in these categories: BATTING AVERAGE (three times), HOME RUNS (eight times), RBI’s (ten times), MVP VOTING (eight times), TOTAL BASES (six times). In the decade from 1947 to 1957, only Stan Musial and Duke Snider had better overall production. Snider compiled a total of 1,031 RBI from 1950 to 1959 and Ennis knocked in 1,025 in the decade of the 50's.

Ennis showed his power in 1948, driving in 95 runs with 30 home runs – a Phillies record for right-handed hitters, breaking Gavvy Cravath's 1915 total of 24. A year later, he hit .302 with 25 homers and 110 RBI, and he finished second in the NL in doubles both seasons. But his most productive season came in 1950, when he hit .311 with career highs of 31 home runs and an NL-best 126 RBI; the 31 HRs were the team record for right-handed hitters until teammate Stan Lopata hit 32 in 1956. As a member of the 1950 team dubbed the "Whiz Kids," Del was the scourge of the National League and he helped the Phillies to win their first pennant since 1915 in an exciting finish that saw Philadelphia beat out the powerful Brooklyn Dodgers on the last day of the season, only to be swept in the World Series by the New York Yankees, with Ennis hitting only .143 with no RBI. Ennis placed fourth in the MVP voting, won by teammate Jim Konstanty.

From 1952-55, Ennis collected four 20+ HR, 100+ RBI seasons, with highs of 29 and 125 in 1953. He was also named to three All-Star Games, in 1946, 1951 and 1955. In 1956 he passed Chuck Klein to become the Phillies' all-time home run leader, and he held the record until Mike Schmidt passed him in 1980. In 1956, he also broke Ed Delahanty's record of 1,544 games with the Phillies; Richie Ashburn broke his record in 1958. By the end of the 1956 season he was also among the NL's top ten career home run leaders, though he dropped out of the top ten before his career ended. Traded to the St. Louis Cardinals before the 1957 season for Rip Repulski, Ennis responded with a .286 average, 26 home runs and 105 RBI, finishing second in the NL behind his teammate Musial. But his production dropped off sharply in 1958, and after two years in St. Louis he finished his career in 1959 playing for the Cincinnati Redlegs and the pennant winning Chicago White Sox. In a 14-season career, Ennis compiled a .284 batting average with 288 home runs, 2,063 hits, 1,284 RBI and 985 runs in 1,903 games.
Ennis was inducted into the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame.

The story of Del and the abuse he endured from Philadelphia fans in eleven seasons has obscured his impressive statistics and also his memory. The taciturn Ennis, not given to introspection, shrugged off the abuse. Eventually, he won his "war with the wolves" in old Shibe Park and Connie Mack Stadium. As an example, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Cardinals on July 31, 1954, in the top of the third inning, Ennis dropped an outfield fly with the bases loaded and all three runners scored. In the bottom half of the same inning with two on and two out, he hit the first pitch on the roof in left field, and the Phillies won the game by a score of 6-5. Ennis' career ended with a mid-season release by the Chicago White Sox in 1959, after having been acquired from Cincinnati during the first week of the 1959 season. In the first eleven games that he played with the Sox, Del drove in seven runs including a game winner in mid-May in Yankee Stadium. In fact, Ennis had four game-winning hits in six games in early '59 and the Sox went on to win the AL pennant that year. However, Del was not with the team that played the Dodgers in the 1959 World Series although he was voted a one-fourth WS share after the World Series. To make room on the roster for Norm Cash, who had completed his service commitment, Ennis was waived by the White Sox in mid-June 1959, thus ending a highly productive career spanning fourteen seasons. Larry Doby who also played on the White Sox team in 1959 , Ralph Kiner, and Enos Slaughter are all in the Baseball Hall of Fame and belong there. Ennis' career stats are the equal of these players yet his votes for entry are paltry. This player's career needs to be reviewed by the Veterans Committee for the future as he is all but dismissed by writers who never saw him in uniform in his time. When Del came to bat in old Connie Mack or Shibe Park, the fans knew that a game could be altered quickly because of his ability to drive in runners on base. The expectation was always there and pitchers in the 1950s knew he was a dangerous hitter as did the Philadelphia fans despite the booing that Del received. He began the final season of his career with the Reds, batting .333 in 12 AB, but with no HR. On May 1, he was traded to the White Sox, where he was the starting Left fielder throughout May, into early June. His defensive replacement in that period was one Johnny Callison.[For Phillies fans, this is a passing-the-torch moment, if ever there was one.]

With Chicago, Ennis batted .219, 2 HR, 7 RBI in 96 AB. The White Sox released Ennis on June 20. They called-up Jim McAnany to play RF and moved Al Smith from RF to LF for the balance of the season. Ennis was No. 15 in batting for the pennant winning White Sox in the 1959 season despite his early release and retirement.

Following his retirement as a player, Ennis operated a bowling alley named Del Ennis Lanes in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania with the former traveling secretary of the Phillies, John Wise. He also bred greyhound race dogs. Ennis also spent a year coaching baseball at the Penn State University Abington Campus (formerly Ogontz campus). He remembered his 1950 Phillies days in his sports enterprise, calling three dogs scheduled to run in Florida racetracks Whiz Kids Ennis, Whiz Kids Ashburn and Whiz Kids Roberts. In 1983, during the Phillies' 100th anniversary year, he was named to the Philadelphia Phillies Centennial Team. There is a plaque on the Phillies Wall of Fame at the team's new ballpark honoring the career of Del Ennis as a Whiz Kid.

Recollections from Del Ennis

"I really didn't expect to stay with the Phillies but they had to give me a 30 day trial because I was on the National Defense List. I never had spring training [ in 1946] and I pinch hit in Pittsburgh in my first game, then I got into the starting lineup. In my second game in left field, I hit a bases loaded double to beat the Pirates. A few days later in Chicago against the Cubs, I hit two homers in one game"

Ennis used to treat his bats with great care "I used to hang out at a gas station called the Gas House. I used to take home a dozen bats at the end of each year. I would fill up one of those big drums with linseed oil and leave the bats in the drum all winter. They would get to be about 40-42 ounces and when I got to Florida for spring training, I put the bats in the dryer where they dried uniforms. That would get them down to about 36 ounces, and make them harder. Andy Seminick and I used the same bat all year in 1950 when we won the NL pennant."

Ennis died in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania at 70 years of age from complications of diabetes. He was buried in Hillside Cemetery, Roslyn, Pennsylvania.

Feats

    On June 2, 1949, the Phillies hit five home runs during the same inning (the eighth) in a 12–3 victory over Cincinnati at Shibe Park, tying the major league mark set by the 1939 New York Giants. Andy Seminick hit two home runs in the inning, while Ennis, Willie Jones and Schoolboy Rowe had one each. Jones added a triple and Granny Hamner's double made the total of extra bases 18, still a record. Also in 1949, Ennis ended a scoreless tie with the St Louis Cards in the 9th inning with a home run off P Max Lanier to win the game.

Del Ennis hits a leadoff solo HR on September 1952 in the bottom of the 17th inning as the Phils beat Boston by a score of 7-6 in the first game of a doubleheader at Shibe Park.

Ennis drives in six runs in a game with the Reds at Crosley Field on July 30, 1953.

Opening day in 1956 in Pittsburgh and the game is washed out by rain as Del has 5 RBIs to no avail. He finishes the season of 1956 with 95, the first year in five he misses the 100 RBI mark.

He had a three HR game on July 23, 1955 at Connie Mack Stadium and drove in all 7 runs -one short of George Kelly's NL mark set in 1924- the Phils beating the Cards 7-2 as Robin Roberts wins his 16th season victory and 6th in a row. Three times in his career Del Ennis broke up a no-hit game, including one off Ramón Monzant of the New York Giants on April 29, 1956. In 1946, his two out 8th inning single spoils a no hit perfect game bid by Red Barrett of the Cardinals and in 1947 he broke up a no hit bid by Hal Gregg of the Dodgers.

1950 highlights

    Ennis' salary for 1950 was $30,000, at the time the highest ever paid to a member of the Phillies. Del hit home runs in four consecutive games twice in the 1950 season. In 11 seasons as a Phillies outfielder in the post World War II years, Del Ennis averaged better than 23 home runs and 100 runs batted in and was the key player on the 1950 pennant winning team.
    July 27 - Ennis hit a double and a grand slam with seven RBI against the Chicago Cubs, as the Phillies won 13–3 at Shibe Park. Philadelphia won 11 of their next 15 games to hold first place by four games over the Boston Braves.
    July 30 - In the first game of a doubleheader, he hit his second grand slam in three days in a 10–0 win over Pittsburgh Pirates. He added a two-run homer as the Phillies won the second game, 4–2. His seven RBI in two games gave him 41 for the month, a new Phillies mark.
    August 16 - The Phillies beat the second-place Braves 5-1 on Robin Roberts' three-hitter, scoring four runs in the fourth inning off Vern Bickford including Ennis' 26th home run of the season.
    August 21 - The Phillies beat the New York Giants as Ennis had three hits and drove in his 100th run of the season to bolster Curt Simmons' four-hit shutout for his 16th win of the season. Philadelphia heads west with a 5½ game lead in the NL pennant race.
    September 15 - In a doubleheader against Cincinnati, Ennis went 5-for-10, including a three-RBI double in the 18th inning of game two, as the Phillies won both games.
    September 24 - As the Phillies near the end of a pennant season, Ennis powered the faltering "Whiz Kids" past the Boston Braves with a home run, three singles, and four RBI in an 8–7 win.

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