Born Arthur David Pennington on May 18th 1923 in Memphis, TN. Art “Superman” Pennington began his professional baseball career as a teenager barnstorming around the Southern United States in the late 1930's. In 1940, at the age of 17, he signed with the Chicago American Giants of the Negro Leagues. Art Pennington was one of the Negro Leagues brightest stars being selected to play in the prestigious Negro League East/West All*Star Game on three different occasions (1942, 46, & 50). Art Pennington was an All*Star during the Golden Era of the Negro Leagues when the talent was at its highest. He was the MVP of the 1950 East/West All*Star Game with a game winning bases loaded triple.During his career in the Negro Leagues he played with some of the greatest baseball players of all times including Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Monte Irvin, Hank Aaron, Buck O’Neil, “Cool Papa” Bell, Buck Leonard, Willie Mays, Roy Campanella and many others.
In 1946 Mr. Pennington’s baseball skills took him south of the border to Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, & the Dominican Republic. The pay was significantly more than the $600 a month he earned in the Negro Leagues with Chicago and the teams in these countries included a diverse mix of Major League & professional players from the United States (MLB), Cuba, Mexico, and many other places. For the first time in his baseball career Mr. Pennington was able to play baseball without the limitations inflicted by racism and discrimination. This takes place 1 year before Jackie Robinson plays his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
Mr. Pennington returned to the United States in 1949 with his wife Anita and two daughters. Anita was a white woman of Spanish origins making this an inter-racial marriage. In 1949 this is very rare and against the law in most states and was the source of much attention. "America wasn't ready for us but we did not care." While playing in the Minor Leagues he is often the first & only African American on the team. He was not allowed to eat or lodge with the team and subsequently had to make other arraignments. Segregated waiting rooms & drinking fountains fall into this category. Many communities in Florida, Iowa, & California were about to experience baseball & social integration at the local level. Reading in the newspaper about Roy Campanella & Jackie Robinson in Brooklyn, NY was much different than seeing it at the local ball park, public school and grocery store. In spite of the racially charged environment he still was one of the finest players anyone had seen. While in Minor Leagues he had batting averages of .345, .339, .329, & .341. He also set the Three-I League batting average record of .349 which stood for over 30 years. Despite his team/league leading statistics he was pasted over while lesser quality White ball players were promoted to the majors.
Mr. Pennington retired from baseball following the 1959 season and settled in South East side of Cedar Rapids, IA where he still lives today. After baseball he worked at Collins Radio for many years, played on the company baseball team and ran for several political offices including sheriff, mayor and safety commissioner. Mr. Pennington also opened the Home-Run Club, the first Mixed Race Establishment in Cedar Rapids.
Like so many other famous and little known Civil Rights legends Mr. Pennington paving the way to brighter tomorrows. He truly is a Civil Rights legend and an American Giant.