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Clarence Chenoweth, 85, softball pitcher


Clarence Merrick "Cheney" Chenoweth, a Black & Decker Corp. supervisor famous for his ambidextrous "iron man" softball pitching, died Wednesday of heart failure in his home in Upperco. He was 85.

On Dec. 18, Mr. Chenoweth and his wife, the former Vivian Turnbaugh, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Mr. Chenoweth was born in the Cherry Hill section of Reisterstown and had a rough childhood after his father left. Struggling to help meet expenses for his mother, brother and himself, he went to the Black & Decker plant in Towson to seek a job when he was 15.

Despite repeated rebuffs from supervisors, the company hired him after he told plant managers: "I've got to keep coming back because my mother keeps sending me," according to his son, C. Merrick "Rick" Chenoweth Jr.

His brother, Howard, also worked at the plant. Mr. Chenoweth worked his way up from a machine operator to the third shift

supervisor in Hampstead.

As supervisor of the third shift, Mr. Chenoweth drove around in his golf cart each day to greet all 700 shift workers, whose birthdays he also made a point to remember.

"Dad used to say that there is no such thing as bad people, just bad managers," his son said. "He said people were good and if you treated them right, they would give you their best."

Mr. Chenoweth became most famous in the Baltimore region for his softball prowess. He continued playing for various local and company teams, including the Maryland State Police squad, well into his 60s. He even coached Black & Decker women's softball team, which became known as "Cheney's Chickens."

Mr. Chenoweth's most well-known feat occurred on July 17, 1947, when he pitched 23 straight innings to lead Black & Decker to a sweep of Lutherville in a Baltimore County Softball League doubleheader. The feat tied the state endurance mark set 11 years earlier. Mr. Chenoweth even hit a double to drive in a run. The Sun called his performance an "iron man" stunt.

"His philosophy in softball was much like his philosophy in life: 'If the ball is within reach, swing at it,' " his son said.

Mr. Chenoweth shared a close bond with his older brother, Howard. Combined, the two men worked at the Black & Decker %% plant for more than 90 years. They lived together for many years to help their mother when times were tough.

To his dying day, Mr. Chenoweth would visit his brother -- three years his senior and in frail health -- and reminisce about the old days.

"They argued and cussed at each other," said Daisy "Jo" Grove, Mr. Chenoweth's niece. "But you knew they cared about each other, they stayed together and depended on each other."

Mr. Chenoweth's other hobbies included golf and gardening. He was a member of Arcadia Volunteer Fire Department and founded the "Jay Birds Club," a local social group.

The funeral service will be held at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Arcadia Sunday at 1 p.m. Burial will follow at St. Paul's Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Johns Hopkins Children's Center at 111 Market Place, Suite 901, Baltimore, 21202. In addition to his wife, son and brother, he is survived by his daughter, Linda Chenoweth Kranz, and six grandchildren.

Pub Date: 12/27/98


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