NEGRO LEAGUES BASEBALL STAR ART PENNINGTON DIES AT 93
Funeral Service: 10:00 am Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at Cedar Memorial Funeral Home. A visitation will be held from 4-7 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2017 at Cedar Memorial Funeral Home. Burial: Cedar Memorial Park Cemetery.
Cedar Rapids has lost one of its best-known and most beloved citizens. Art “Superman” Pennington, among the last remaining members of that alternative baseball universe, the Negro Leagues, died peacefully in his sleep on January 4, 2017 at St. Luke’s Living Center West in Cedar Rapids, IA.
Born in Memphis, TN on May 18, 1923, Arthur David Pennington was the son of Harry Pennington and Fannie Pearl Walker Pennington. He grew up in Hot Springs, AR, where he became a star athlete at Langston High School. In 1940 at age 17 he signed a professional baseball contract with the Chicago American Giants, one of the leading Negro Leagues teams. He played in three of the East/West All Star games held by the Negro Leagues. He was a true All*Star and for nearly a decade he was one of the best baseball players on the planet. He subsequently enjoyed a long and varied career in the American Minor Leagues, as well as playing baseball in Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Pennington retired from professional baseball in 1959 and went to work for Rockwell-Collins (Collins Radio) in Cedar Rapids, IA, where he retired from in 1985.
Pennington was a tall, powerfully built man and a dangerous switch hitter who liked to challenge pitchers by calling out to them: “Throw it and duck!” But he did not receive his nickname “Superman” for his baseball prowess. It was a childhood nickname given to him by his admiring mother after a surprising feat of strength. His family car suffered a flat tire and they had no jack, so Art lifted the car high enough to push some rocks under the flat, so it could be changed. As Pennington recalled many years later, “Mama said, ‘Well, you’re my little Superman.’”
In his old age, Pennington often visited public schools, baseball parks, colleges, museums telling the young and old about his experiences in the Negro Leagues, whose existence was unknown to most of those children, who mistakenly assumed men of color had always been Major League stars.
Had he been born a few years later, Pennington most likely would have enjoyed a successful Major League career. “But I’m not bitter toward anyone,” he remarked when he was in his 80’s. He was pleased by the belated recognition he received in Cedar Rapids, honors that included having a housing development named after him, and being inducted into the Cedar Rapids Baseball Hall of Fame.
Even though Art Pennington never had the opportunity to qualify for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, anyone who knew him understood that he was a Hall of Fame human being.
Pennington is survived by his sister Fannie, his five children, numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in his name to the African American Museum of Iowa. (https://www.blackiowa.org/support/donate/