“Baby Boy Kennedy”? For a brief time Hall of Fame Pitcher Jim Palmer actually believed he could be a descendant of the Kennedys.
Recently, IrishCentral ran a piece about Hall of Fame Pitcher Jim Palmer and how DNA finally solved the mystery of his parentage—that both his biological parents turned out to be of Irish stock.
The Washington Post has just done an extensive follow-up on this DNA mystery and how Palmer, for a long time, thought he might just be a descendant of the Kennedys, an heir, if you will, to Camelot.
Palmer was not all that interested in his biological parents, but his wife, Susan, was relentless in her pursuit of the truth.
Palmer was the progeny of Joe Geheran and Mary Ann Moroney. They were intimate on a cold New York January night in 1945 and in October of that year their off-spring, the future Jim Palmer, was born. The Post succinctly describes their union: “They may have known each other already but probably didn’t — he, a dapper, 41-year-old, well-known man about town; she, a 37-year-old domestic to a wealthy family; both of them Irish immigrants. He was married, without children. She would marry just over a year later and quickly start a family with her new husband.”
“Baby Boy Kennedy”
For the first 48 hours of his life, Jim Palmer was registered to the state of New York as “Baby Boy Kennedy.” This nugget was glimpsed by a relative of his adoptive mother Polly and passed on to him. Palmer’s imagination took it from there as the Post reported: “As he grew into a handsome, gifted and lanky young man, with features that were nothing if not Kennedyesque, it didn’t seem unreasonable to presume he was the product of some fling one of the Kennedy men — maybe Jack, Bobby or Joe Sr. — had one cold Manhattan night in January 1945.”
Palmer was not shy about his “maybe” Kennedy connection. In fact, he used to brag about it. So much, that another Irish teammate, fellow Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan, according to the report, “used to ride him mercilessly about it, pointing out that only someone with Palmer’s legendary sense of self-grandeur would extrapolate from his murky origins as a Kennedy…”
And it didn’t end there. Palmer spent his whole career as a Baltimore Oriole, only a stone’s throw from Washington, second-home to the Kennedys. According to the Post “Once, Palmer met Ethel Kennedy [Bobby’s widow] at a function and told her the story of the Kennedy name appearing on his birth certificate. She listened to the known details, which were few, took a long look at Palmer and said, ‘Let’s see. . . . Which of the boys could that have been?’ Palmer’s second wife, Joan, once said, perhaps half-jokingly, that those rugged, handsome Irish features were not the only trait her ex-husband shared with the famous Kennedy men.”
Palmer learns that almost don’t count
But the truth, alas, was not as sexy. Susan Palmer discovered that the sister of Palmer’s birth mother was married to a man named Kennedy. In those days, a birth out of wedlock, especially for an Irish-Catholic woman, was verboten.
The Post speculates that “the woman, probably ashamed and eager to protect her secret, chose that most common of names when the hospital personnel needed to know what to put on the birth certificate. And perhaps to further obscure the truth, she had used Kennedy as the mother’s name and Maroney (using the incorrect spelling that had been listed for her name at Ellis Island some 20 years earlier) as the father’s. These are the names that would be listed for the baby on the publicly available New York City birth registry.”
Thus, Jim Palmer’s dream of being an heir to Camelot was burst. Or, as the Washington Post put it, “James Alvin Palmer was not descended from the Camelot Kennedys. He was never even a Kennedy at all.”
But “Baby Boy Kennedy” did grow up to be Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, winning 268 games for the Baltimore Orioles. That is exactly 268 games more than any of the fabled Kennedy boys ever won in the major leagues. Not bad for the offspring of a couple of Irish immigrants.
* Dermot McEvoy is the author of the The 13th Apostle: A Novel of Michael Collins and the Irish Uprising and Our Lady of Greenwich Village, both now available in paperback, Kindle and Audio from Skyhorse Publishing. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at www.dermotmcevoy.com. Follow The 13th Apostle on Facebook at www.facebook.com/13thApostleMcEvoy.