Willie Keeler

William Henry Keeler
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 1939
Primary team: New York Yankees
Primary position: Right Fielder

William H. “Wee Willie” Keeler was one of the smallest players ever in major league baseball at 5’4”, 140 pounds, but he had one of the biggest bats in the game, both figuratively and literally, weighing up to 46 ounces.

His motto was, “Keep your eye on the ball and hit ‘em where they ain’t,” and it certainly worked for the third baseman-turned-outfielder. Keeler had 13 straight seasons in which he batted over .300 and he reached the mark in 16 of the 19 years he played. He had a lifetime average of .345 and for seven straight seasons he also had an on-base percentage that was above .400.

In 1894, he batted .371, scoring 165 runs and notching 94 RBIs. He also hit 22 triples in his first year with the Orioles. It was the same season in which he began his streak of eight consecutive years with 200 or more hits, a record that held for more than 100 years, but has since been matched and beaten by only Ichiro Suzuki.

Keeler was the leadoff man for nine seasons in Baltimore and Brooklyn, winning five pennants over that span and seeing his team take second place in the race three times. During those nine years, he averaged 215 hits and 134 runs per season. He hit .378 during his time between the two ball clubs.

His best season came in 1897 when he batted .424, which is the highest average for a left-handed hitter in baseball history. He led the American League with 243 hits in only 128 games. Keeler also started the season with a 44-game hitting streak, beating the previous record of 42. His new mark stood for 44 years and was broken by Joe DiMaggio.

During the 1898 season, Keeler hit a remarkable number of singles with 206. His record stood for more than a century until it was broken by Suzuki.

Keeler was known to have handled his bat very well, placing hits wherever he wanted and dropping perfect bunts on a whim. He was also smart on the base paths and had some speed to go with it. Of his 33 career long balls, 30 of them were inside-the-park home runs.

When he retired in 1910, Keeler was second only to Cap Anson for the lead in all-time hits with 2,932.

Bill Stern called him “the most wonderful hitter that ever lived,” and Theodore P. Sullivan once commented, “He’s the greatest right fielder in the history of baseball.”

"Hit ‘em where they ain’t, he used to say. And could he ever! He choked up on the bat so far he only used about half of it, and then he’d just peck at the ball. Just a little snap swing and he’d punch the ball over the infield. You couldn’t strike him out. He’s always hit the ball somewhere. "
Sam Crawford

Career stats

Year Inducted: 1939
Primary Team: New York Yankees
Position Played: Right Fielder
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Birth place: Brooklyn, New York
Birth year: 1872
Died: 1923, Brooklyn, New York
Played for:
New York Giants (1892-1893)
Brooklyn Dodgers (1893-1902)
New York Yankees (1903-1909)
New York Giants (1910)
At BatsAB
Home RunsHR
Stolen BasesSB
Batting AverageBA
On Base %OBP
Slugging %SLG