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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 386


This is the grave of Tim Keefe.

Born in 1857 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Keefe was the son of an Irish immigrant who fought for the Union in the Civil War. His father was a POW; all four of his brothers were killed. Young Tim was interested in sports. His father was interested in him rising in society and opposed his son wasting his time on baseball. Tim won. By 1876, he was playing minor league and he debuted in the majors in 1880 for the Troy Trojans. He pitched 105 innings that year, serving up a 0.80 ERA, still the all-time record for Adjusted ERA+. Troy’s team folded in 1883 and Keefe went to the New York Metropolitans for a couple of years before going to the New York Giants. Keefe had an arm that didn’t give up. He pitched both games of a double header in 1883. Both were complete games. He gave up a total of 3 hits in both games combined. He went 41-27 that year, with a 2.41 ERA and 361 strikeouts in 619 innings. The low K/9 ratio is no doubt how he could throw that much, limiting his pitches, though it’s surprising he had so much success given the poor defensive positioning of those years. According to Baseball Reference, Keefe’s WAR that year? A mere 19.8!!!!

Keefe won the Triple Crown in 1888, when he went 32-13 with a 1.74 ERA and 335 strikeouts. Keefe was also an early baseball unionist as a leading member of the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players. As part of that, he tried setting up an alternative league, the Players League, in 1890, but it only lasted one year. Keefe’s arm began to fail him finally by the early 1890s. He returned to the Giants briefly in 1891 and then played a couple of years with the Phillies, retiring at the end of the 1893 season. He then moved back to Cambridge, was the pitching coach at Harvard for a bit, was an umpire for awhile, and then went into real estate. He died in 1933 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1964. Baseball Reference’s JAWS rating puts him as the 12th best pitcher of all time.

Tim Keefe is buried in Cambridge Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

If you would like this series to visit other pitchers, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Warren Spahn, 13th on the JAWS list, is in Hartshorne, Oklahoma and Jim McCormick, 18th on the JAWS list and the highest not to be in the HOF outside of Clemens, is in Totowa, New Jersey. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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