Saturday, July 29, 2006

Featured Player: Charlie Keller

For much of ten American League seasons, Keller formed with Joe DiMaggio and Tommy Henrich one of the finest outfields in New York Yankees history. A splendid all-round athlete at the University of Maryland, where he earned a degree in agricultural economics in 1937, Keller joined the Yankees in 1939 and quickly became the regular left fielder, with Henrich patrolling right field and DiMaggio at center.

Through of his career, Keller was a feared slugger and a competent fielder. In his rookie season he hit .334 with 11 home runs and 83 RBI in 111 games. He topped his splendid major league debut by crashing three homers and batting .438 as the Yankees swept four games from the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series.

In his sophomore season, Keller hit .286 with 21 home runs, 93 RBI, 18 doubles and 15 triples. His most productive season came in 1941, when he hit .298 and posted career-highs in home runs (33), RBI (122), doubles (24) and triples (15), becoming the second major leaguer since Ted Williams in 1939 to hit 30 HR-20 doubles-10 triples in a regular season. Besides Williams and Keller, only DiMaggio in 1948 and 1950, Mickey Mantle in 1955, and Jim Rice in 1977, had reached those levels in major league history.

After serving during 1944 and much of 1945 in the Merchant Marine, Keller returned as a regular with the Yankees. In the 1946 season, he collected 30 home runs, 29 doubles and 10 triples, joining DiMaggio as the only two bigleaguers with two 30-20-10 seasons.

Keller played part time from 1947-49 when he was troubled by a ruptured disc in his back. He was released by the Yankees before the 1950 season and signed a two-year contract with the Detroit Tigers, serving mostly as a pinch-hitter. In 1952 he came back to New York for a final season.

In a 13-season career, Keller was a .286 hitter with 189 home runs and 760 RBI in 1170 games. A five-time All-Star selection, he collected a career .410 on base percentage and a .518 slugging average for a combined .928 OPS. In four World Series appearances, he batted .306 with five home runs 18 RBI in 19 games.

Following his retirement as a player, Keller founded Yankeeland Farm and had a successful career as a horse breeder – pacers and trotters – near his hometown of Middletown, Maryland. He named many of his horses after the franchises he played for: Fresh Yankee, Handsome Yankee, Yankee Slugger and Guy Yankee. He also benefited by owning syndicated shares of several stallions, which entitled him to free stud fees.

Charlie Keller died in Frederick, Maryland, at age of 73.

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BallHype: hype it up! Posted by Steve Kenul at 9:40 AM


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