Most textbook authors still endorse penicillin G as the specific antibiotic of choice for pneumococcal pneumonia. However, problems with early precise etiologic diagnosis of pneumonia and the emergence of drug-resistant pneumococci cause penicillin to be seldom used for this purpose today. A third explanation for the infrequent use of penicillin is lack of clear consensus dosing guidelines. Emergence of pneumococci resistant to the newer cephalosporins and concerns about overuse of vancomycin, however, have prompted renewed interest in the development of precise, rapid methods for diagnosis of pneumococcal pneumonia with the implication that penicillin might be used more frequently. We review several issues concerning penicillin dosing: intermittent vs continuous therapy, high dose vs low dose, relationship of dose to resistance, and cost-effective pharmacology. An optimum "high-dose" regimen for life-threatening pneumococcal pneumonia in a 70-kg adult consists of a 3 million unit (mu) loading dose followed by continuous infusion of 10 to 12 mu of freshly prepared drug every 12 h. The maintenance dose should be reduced in elderly patients and in patients with renal failure according to the following formula: dose (mu/24 h=4+[creatinine clearance÷7]). This regimen provides a penicillin serum level of 16 to 20 µg/mL, which should suffice for all but the most highly resistant strains (minimum inhibitory concentration ≥4 µg/mL). Newer cephalosporins and vancomycin can be reserved for patients with suspected meningitis or endocarditis or for localities in which highly resistant pneumococci are known to be prevalent.