Ted Kennedy was born in 1865. He was a native of Peoria, Illinois and by age thirteen developed a fascination with baseball and the local teams of the area. One player that particularly intrigued Kennedy was the pitcher Charles Radbourn, a master of the overhand curve ball. Kennedy became a water boy for Radbourn's team and would position himself behind the backstop and watch the spin of Radbourn's ball as it would arc over the plate. Kennedy soon approached Radbourn and asked him about the grip for his curve ball. Radbourn obliged and after much practice Kennedy was overjoyed at mastering the pitch. Kennedy played ball with the local teams throughout his teenage years but was small and very light for a pitcher. He would only get spot duty on the mound and played a fair amount at third base. Kennedy overcame any physical limitations by developing a vast array of arm angles, grips and spins to eventually succeed as a starting pitcher. 1884 was his breakout year with an independent team in Keokuk, Iowa. The Carson/Rand team of Keokuk was loaded with quality players itching to advance into the professional leagues. Kennedy was one of the best pitchers and eventually moved up to the major league level with the Chicago White Stockings in 1885. He continued to play a few more years at the major league level but eventually injuries and arm weariness relegated him back to the minor league level after 1887. The 1888 Old Judge card above shows Kennedy with the Omaha team of the Western Association.
Kennedy was with the Omahas during a 1888 game with the Kansas City Blues. It was there that Kennedy had a fateful conversation with the Blues catcher, Joe Gunson. Kennedy was intrigued with the makeshift metal reinforced mitt Gunson used to protect his injured fingers. The two parted ways and Kennedy eventually moved on to the Des Moines team where he played his last game in 1889. Injuries finally ended Kennedy's playing career and he stayed in Des Moines during his period of recuperation. It was there Kennedy developed the design of a sophisticated metal reinforced mitt inspired by Joe Gunson's primitive version. Kennedy applied for a patent in May of 1889. Kennedy sent a telegram to Gunson at the time offering to sell the patent design. Gunson declined, observing that the metal framework was not a necessary element for an effective catchers mitt. Gunson had abandoned the metal reinforcement in his own mitt, realizing that substantial padding was enough to protect the fingers. Gunson also cited a mitt patented by Harry Decker of Chicago three months earlier in March of 1889 as more effective for a catcher. Still, Kennedy soldiered on with his elaborate design and moved to Chicago for a time to market his mitt.
The Kennedy mitt involved a wire reinforcement anchored to a leather inner glove. This was covered with a padding and a sheath of leather to form the mitt.
Below is an 1890's ad for this mitt dubbed the "League Backstop Glove". It was sold through the Frederick A. Field wholesale shoe company of Des Moines. The mitts were labor intensive to make and incredibly expensive for the time. Kennedy's business included a custom shop. A player could mail in a drawn outline of his glove hand and a glove/mitt would be made to order.