William Henry Keeler (1872-1923)
New York Giants 1892-1893; 1910
Brooklyn Grooms/Superbas 1893; 1899-1902
Baltimore Orioles 1894-1898
New York Highlanders 1903-1909
Career WAR: 54.0
Best Season: 1897 .424/.464/.539/1.003 164 OPS+ 27 2B 19 3B 5 K 7.1 WAR
Quote: “Keep your eye clear and hit ‘em where they ain’t; that’s all.”
Nickname: Wee Willie due to his 5’4″ height
Known For: Aside from his height, Keeler was known for “hitting ’em where they ain’t” – he was a prolific singles hitter, bunter, and speedster in the 1890’s and the first decade of the deadball era.
The Bad: Started his career at third base and was awful. In 1893 he made 10 errors in 12 games at the hot corner.
Wee Bat: Keeler used a 30-inch bat during his early years, considered the shortest bat in major league history.
Naked Brawl: So rough were Keeler’s defensive lapses, that they drew significant needling from teammates, including John McGraw who played with Keeler during his Baltimore years. It came to blows one day in 1897 while the two were showering after a game. It was reported that Keeler made McGraw “squeal” first.
$10,000 Man: Keeler became the first ballplayer to make more than $10,000 in a year when he signed with the New York Highlanders for the 1903 season. He may also have the distinction of being the first big money free agent signed by the team that would later be known as the Yankees. When Keeler retired he was known as the “Brooklyn Millionaire” – an exaggeration given that he was worth about $200,000 at the time.
WGOM Voter Comments:
C’mon, people. get John McGraw and Wee Willie Keeler in there. What more did you want them to do? – The Dread Pirate
Willie Keeler: Struck out only TWO times in 1899 with 633 plate appearances. I’d like to see him face Phil Hughes. – Beau