Tim Keefe

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Timothy John Keefe
(Smiling Tim or Sir Timothy)

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1964

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Biographical Information[edit]

Tim Keefe, who used to pitch his head off for old Jim Mutrie for $3,200

"Keefe was one of the first pitchers celebrated for his head work. Teaming with...Mickey Welch, he assured the Giants of a well-pitched game almost every day." - Lee Allen, Hall of Fame historian

Hall of Famer Tim Keefe won 342 games in the majors. He was on the same teams as fellow Hall of Fame pitcher Mickey Welch for a decade. From 1883 to 1888 he won at least 32 games each season. He led the National League three times in ERA and twice in wins. In 1886, he had a 42-20 record with a 2.56 ERA. He had the first great change-up in the major leagues. He holds an obscure record, as he won games in 47 major league ballparks; second on the all-time list is Randy Johnson, with 41.

As a rookie with the Troy Trojans in 1880, he posted an 0.86 ERA in 12 starts - all complete games -, leading the 1880 National League and achieving the all-time best ERA for a league leader. The league ERA was 2.38. He pitched for Troy until the team disbanded following the 1882 seasons, then alongside teammates Welch, Roger Connor and Buck Ewing, moved to the newly-formed New York Gothams in 1883. There was no formal connection between the two teams, but because the four biggest stars of the 1880s for New York all come from the old Troy teams, many sources list the Trojans as the first incarnation of what are today's San Francisco Giants.

In 1888, Keefe won 19 consecutive games pitching for the New York Giants. While this was not widely recognized at the time, it was the major league record which Rube Marquard tied with his own 19-game winning streak for the Giants in 1912. The streak includes one problematic win: on August 16th, he left a start against the Chicago White Stockings after two innings with a commanding 9-0 lead, and Bill George pitched the remainder of the 12-4 win. This was a deliberate tactical move: Giants manager Jim Mutrie figured he had that game in the pocket, and decided to save Keefe so he could pitch the next game a day later (which he also won). Under modern scoring rules, that win would belong to George, but at the time, it was credited to Keefe, giving him a share of the record.

Although he was born and died outside of Boston in Cambridge, MA, he never pitched for a Boston team in the majors.

He was not a strong hitter, but showed some power with 9 triples in 1883, leading his team in triples that year. He umpired games occasionally almost every season starting in the National League in 1880, then became a full-time ump from 1894 to 1896.

His cousin, John Keefe, pitched one season in the majors.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • NL Pitcher's Triple Crown (1888)
  • 3-time NL ERA Leader (1880, 1885 & 1888)
  • 2-time NL Wins Leader (1886 & 1888)
  • NL Winning Percentage Leader (1888)
  • 2-time League Games Pitched Leader (1883/AA & 1886/NL)
  • 2-time League Innings Pitched Leader (1883/AA & 1886/NL)
  • 2-time League Strikeouts Leader (1883/AA & 1888/NL)
  • 2-time League Complete Games Leader (1883/AA & 1886/NL)
  • NL Shutouts Leader (1888)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 7 (1883-1889)
  • 30 Wins Seasons: 6 (1883-1888)
  • 40 Wins Seasons: 2 (1883 & 1886)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 11 (1881-1890 & 1892)
  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 10 (1881-1889 & 1892)
  • 400 Innings Pitched Seasons: 7 (1881 & 1883-1888)
  • 500 Innings Pitched Seasons: 2 (1883 & 1886)
  • 600 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (1883)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 6 (1883-1886, 1888 & 1889)
  • 300 Strikeouts Seasons: 3 (1883, 1884 & 1888)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1964

Records Held[edit]

  • Lowest ERA, season (before 1893), 0.86
  • Most consecutive wins, season, 19, 1888 (tied)
  • Errors, pitcher, career, 166

Further Reading[edit]

  • Charlie Bevis: Tim Keefe: A Biography of the Hall of Fame Pitcher and Player-Rights Advocate, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2015. ISBN 978-0-7864-9665-5
  • Brian Marshall: "A Pitching Conundrum", Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Vol. 46, Nr. 1 (Spring 2017), pp. 70-77.

Related Sites[edit]