Ex-catcher, skipper salvaged his career in Albuquerque
Kevin Kennedy’s last trip to Albuquerque was neither planned nor enjoyable.
Kennedy, a former Dukes catcher and manager, touched down in New Mexico in April 2010 after helping subdue a man who threatened to blow up the plane on which they were traveling.
Kennedy, a broadcaster for the Tampa Bay Rays at the time, was flying from Los Angeles to Florida when the man sprayed passengers with water, threatened violence and tried to enter the cabin. Kennedy and several other passengers subdued the man, who was removed when the plane was diverted to Albuquerque.
“That was a crazy situation,” Kennedy said in a phone interview from his California home, “but there was a comfort level for me because I knew the city. Once we got the guy under control and they said we’d be landing in Albuquerque, I felt a lot better.”
The brief airport stop was Kennedy’s only visit since his final season managing the Dukes in 1991. He’ll be back this week for induction into the Albuquerque Baseball Hall of Fame. Kennedy will be honored along with former teammates Greg Brock, Sid Bream and the late longtime sportswriter Carlos Salazar prior to Saturday night’s Albuquerque Isotopes game against Iowa.
“I was shocked and excited when I found out,” Kennedy said of his induction. “I have so many fond memories of Albuquerque. I can’t wait to get there.”
Kennedy, 58, connects Albuquerque with extending a baseball career that’s covered 36 years as a player, coach, manager and broadcaster. Before joining the Dukes as a player in 1982, Kennedy had resigned himself to starting another profession.
“If it weren’t for my years in Albuquerque, I’d be an accountant right now,” Kennedy said. “I’d been released by the Baltimore and St. Louis organizations. I already had a couple of clients lined up, including Greg Brock. I did his taxes.”
Instead Kennedy opted to join the Dodgers organization and came to the Dukes as a catcher in 1982. He was part of a team that included Brock, Bream, Candy Maldonado, Mike Marshall, Sid Fernandez and John Franco.
The 1982 Dukes finished 85-58 and won a Pacific Coast League championship.
“I thought I was in the big leagues watching those guys,” Kennedy said. “That was my last full year of playing, and it was great. I went there as a backup and ended up catching a lot.”
Kennedy played in 51 games, hitting .285, with three homers and 20 RBIs. All of his home runs came on the road.
“Everyone else hit home runs in Albuquerque,” he said with a laugh.
In 1983, Kennedy was primarily learning the coaching and managing ropes. He appeared in two games, however, one as a pitcher. In his two seasons, Kennedy twice went to the mound as an “emergency” reliever.
“Tony Gwynn actually got a bloop single off me,” Kennedy recalled, “but I put up a zero the second time.”
Kennedy credits then-Dukes manager Del Crandall for helping him develop his own managerial approach. It would pay off later, when the Dodgers made Kennedy manager of the Dukes for the 1989 season.
Albuquerque made the playoffs that season and did even better in 1990. The Dukes went 91-51 and captured a PCL crown, something Kennedy vividly remembers.
“We were in Edmonton, and I remember (pitcher) John Wetteland getting the final out,” Kennedy said. “Claude Osteen was our pitching coach, and he was jumping up and down. I asked him why he was so happy.
“Claude said, ‘A long baseball season is such a grind; a championship is always reason to celebrate.’ I never forgot that.”
Kennedy’s three-season record of 251-171 was enough to earn him a big league opportunity. He managed the Texas Rangers in 1993-94 and the Boston Red Sox in 1995-96.
Kennedy led the Red Sox to a playoff appearance, but some of his more memorable moments came in Texas. In 1993, Rangers slugger Jose Canseco had the infamous outfield play when a fly ball bounced off his head and over the fence for a home run. Canseco also suffered an arm injury while pitching, drawing criticism Kennedy’s way.
It wasn’t nearly enough to derail a career that included a long stint as a national baseball analyst for Fox. Several gigs later, he’s back with the Los Angeles organization as a host of “Dodger Talk.”
“It’s fitting,” Kennedy said, “because if the Dodgers hadn’t sent me to Albuquerque back in ’82, I would have had an entirely different career. When I first went there, I was really thinking it would be good chance to get (accounting) clients.”
Duke City Special to KennedyThe Associated PressFormer Dukes manager Kevin Kennedy, right, parlayed a successful 1989-91 stint into major league shots with Boston and Texas.Kevin KennedyAge: 58 Residence: Los Angeles Years with Dukes: 1982-83 (player); 1989-91 (manager) Highlights: PCL titles in 1982, ’90 Now: Hosts “Dodger Talk” radio showWednesday’Topes rained out Tuesday, to play two today C2SaturdayInductions for Kevin Kennedy, Greg Brock, Sid Bream and the late Carlos Salazar into the Albuquerque Baseball Hall of Fame.Ex-catcher, skipper salvaged his career in AlbuquerqueSee KENNEDY on PAGE C2Kennedy Saved Career in Albuquerquefrom PAGE C1
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal