Bill 'Pickles' Kennedy dies at 68 The former Temple basketball and baseball standout was killed in a car accident in Florida.

Posted: September 02, 2006

Bill "Pickles" Kennedy, 68, one of the great multi-sport athletes this city has produced, an all-American at Temple in basketball and baseball, died in a car accident Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla.

After starring at Temple, Mr. Kennedy played a season in the NBA with the Philadelphia Warriors and several seasons in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system.

In addition to starring in those sports at Lincoln High, Mr. Kennedy also was an all-city quarterback and reportedly turned down overtures from Penn, Penn State, Duke, Michigan and Michigan State to concentrate on college basketball.

On the court, where he enjoyed his greatest fame, Mr. Kennedy played in the Final Four for Harry Litwack as a sophomore, starting in the same Owls backcourt with Guy Rodgers, part of one of the greatest fastbreak teams in city history. Temple lost to eventual champion Kentucky by a point in the 1958 national semifinals.

After his playing days, Mr. Kennedy taught and coached for a few years at Wissahickon High, sold insurance, and then started his own business installing flooring under computers.

He had been in ill health in recent years, suffering from myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disease. He needed to take steroids the last two decades for the condition. He also underwent open-heart surgery and back surgery, and suffered a stroke.

Friends and family remembered Mr. Kennedy as a man who went through life with a smile.

"He liked telling stories about anything and everybody," friend Jack Boyle said. "When people met him, they just loved being with him. He'd walk in a room and everybody wanted to be at his table. He was just funny. And he was always making fun of himself. There wasn't an egotistical bone in his body."

Mr. Kennedy and his wife, Carol, celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in July.

"He was very easygoing," Carol Kennedy said. "He was a great father and a wonderful husband. He got along with everybody. He loved sports, always has. We were only down here a short time, since the end of April. He loved the beach. That's where we're going to throw his ashes. We'd talked about that."

As for his memorable nickname, Mr. Kennedy told friends his older sister gave it to him when he was young. He never knew why.

"A basket of Pickles," legendary public-address announcer Dave Zinkoff said whenever Mr. Kennedy scored for the Warriors.

The Temple News sized up his game this way in 1957, when he was just starting his varsity career: "The 5 ft. 10 in. Kennedy is extremely fast and is an excellent driver. He is a clever ball-handler, which enables him to trick the defender and then drive in for the shot. All Bill needs is a split-second start and he is on his way toward two points. Kennedy shoots best when he is driving in toward the basket, and he shoots equally well the driving lay-up, stab or jump shot."

By 1960, Mr. Kennedy was the Big Five MVP, averaging 22.2 points per game. Boyle told a story about Temple playing at Kentucky. After the game, legendary Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp gave Mr. Kennedy an award for his play and handed him a jar of pickles.

"I wish my mother had named me Cadillac," Mr. Kennedy immediately said.

According to Boyle, Mr. Kennedy pulled off the side of the highway on Interstate 95 in West Palm Beach - it wasn't clear why - and as he tried to get back on the road, his car got clipped by a tractor-trailer. His car flipped over and he was thrown from the car. He apparently died immediately.

"He had just dropped me off at work," his wife said.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Kennedy is survived by his son, Bill Jr.; three daughters, Kimberly Moffait, Kristen Ramos and Kelli New; and three grandchildren.

The family is making tentative plans for a memorial service later this month in Ambler.

Donations may be made to Hunter's Hope Foundation, set up to increase public awareness of Krabbe disease. One of the Kennedys' grandchildren suffers from the nervous-system disease.

Contact staff writer Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or mjensen@phillynews.com.

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