Willie Keeler

From BR Bullpen

Willie Keeler.jpg

William Henry Keeler
(Wee Willie)

  • Bats Left, Throws Left
  • Height 5' 4½", Weight 140 lb.

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1939

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

1915 American Tobacco card.

Willie Keeler played 19 years in the major leagues, split between the 19th and 20th Centuries. His .341 batting average is one of the highest of all time. His best year was 1897, with the famous Baltimore Orioles, when he hit .424 to lead the league and was a teammate of John McGraw, Hughie Jennings, and Wilbert Robinson. He hit .350 or better for seven consecutive seasons from 1894 to 1900; only Ty Cobb has more.

He had played in the Eastern League before coming to the majors, and went into real estate afterwards.

Minor leaguer Gus Moran stated in Sporting Life in 1904 that he was responsible for Keeler getting into pro ball. John Rainey broke his leg in 1892 while playing for Binghamton, and as a possible replacement Moran suggested the manager have someone take a look at young Keeler, playing ball at the time for the amateur Acmes of New York. Keeler was signed and hit .373 at age 20 for Binghamton; second best on the team was Quiet Joe Knight, a 32-year-old veteran who had hit .312 in the majors in 1890 and hit .358 for Binghamton in 1892.

He was best known as a singles hitter, but on August 24, 1904, he had a two-homer game for the New York Highlanders. Both homers were hit inside the park, and they were his only two long balls in a span of 483 games from 1901 to 1905.

Keeler umpired one National League game in 1910. He coached for the Brooklyn Tip-Tops in 1914 and scouted for the Boston Braves in 1915.

Quotations by and about Willie Keeler[edit]


". . . he had a trick of hitting a high hopper to an infielder. The ball would bounce so high that he was across the bag before he could be stopped." - Honus Wagner

"I was just thinking of those suckers, the club owners, paying me for playing ball. Why, I would pay my way into their ballparks if that was the only way I had to get into a game." - Willie Keeler

"I hit 'em where they ain't." - Willie Keeler

"Speaking of sun-fields (fields where outfielders face into the sun), such as the one at Cub Park, it is the belief of Addie Joss that such fields ruin the batsmen who have to play in them, and that this has killed off the hitting of Keeler and other stars." - Sporting Life, Jan. 16, 1909

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time NL Batting Average Leader (1897 & 1898)
  • NL OPS Leader (1897)
  • NL At Bats Leader (1895)
  • NL Runs Scored Leader (1899)
  • 3-time NL Hits Leader (1897, 1898 & 1900)
  • 7-time League Singles Leader (1897-1900/NL & 1904-1906/AL)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 8 (1894-1901)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 8 (1894-1901)
  • 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 2 (1896 & 1897)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1939

Records Held[edit]

  • Batting average, left handed batter, season, .424, 1897
  • Consecutive games with a hit from the first game of the season, 44, 1897
  • Most hits in a season without hitting a home run. In 1897, he collected 239 hits for a .424 batting average, but he did not hit a single dinger.
  • Most franchises with 800+ career hits, 3. Doc Cramer is the only other player to have at least 750 hits for 3 teams.
  • Fastest player in baseball history to reach 1,000 hits and 2,000 hits

Further Reading[edit]

  • Chuck Kimberly: The Days of Wee Willie, Old Cy and Baseball War Scenes from the Dawn of the Deadball Era, 1900–1903, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2014. ISBN 978-0-7864-9401-9
  • Brian Marshall: "Was Keeler the First to Record Four 5-Hit Games in a Season During the Nineteenth Century?", Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Vol. 47, Nr. 1 (spring 2018), pp. 107-111.
  • Lyle Spatz: Willie Keeler: From the Playgrounds of Brooklyn to the Hall of Fame, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, MD, 2015. ISBN 978-1-4422-4653-9

Related Sites[edit]