Date and Place of Birth: April 23, 1920 San Diego, California
Died: October 17, 2009 Keizer, Oregon
Position: First Base
Military Unit: 439th Bomb Squadron, 319th Bomb USAAF
Area Served: Mediterranean Theater of Operations
Ted Kerr was born in San Diego, California, on April 23, 1920. Both
his older brothers were ballplayers and the three were regularly
seen playing at University Heights Playground in the mid-1930s.
Ted's brother Frank, told historian Bill Swank, about an otherwise uneventful day in 1936 when they were playing baseball at University Heights and another very excited friend showed up with an important announcement. "Ted [Williams] told us that he had just signed with the Padres," recalled Frank. "He told us to come to the next game and sit in the right field bleachers. Sure enough, Ted came out wearing a uniform. He ran over to us and waved and yelled, 'Hi, gang! Look at me!'"
Ted Kerr attended San Diego High School and was a first baseman on coach Mike Morrow's powerhouse school and American Legion baseball teams in 1937 and 1938. San Diego's Post 6 Legion team won the national championship in 1938, and Kerr's teammates that year included Duane Pillette, Chet Kehn and Jackie Albright, who all made it to the major leagues; Al Olsen and Mel Skelley who played for the Padres; Jack Maupin who played double-A; Walt McCoy who pitched in the Negro Leagues, and Manuel "Nay" Hernandez who played briefly for the Padres in 1944 and was killed in action in Europe the following year.
In December 1938, one week after his brother Frank signed with the Reidsville Luckies of the Class D Bi-State League, Ted signed a contract to play in the Class D West Texas-New Mexico League. Playing for the Abilene Apaches during their first season under floodlights at Baron Park, Ted was used sparingly during his rookie season and hit just .114 in 11 games. He then joined the Ogden Reds of the Class C Pioneer League in 1940, but was optioned to the Lenoir Reds of the Class D Tar Heel League midway through the season. He played 19 games at Lenoir and although he batted only .197 his solid defensive work as a catcher saw him recalled by Ogden before the end of the year.
Joining the Twin Falls Cowboys of the Class C Pioneer League for 1941, Kerr got his first opportunity to play on a regular basis. Managed by second baseman Andy Harrington, who played briefly with the Detroit Tigers, Kerr appeared in 84 games and batted .241. In 1942, along with Harrington, he joined the Salt Lake City Bees of the same league and despite batting just .183, Harrington used him as his first-string catcher for 112 games.
Kerr’s baseball career was put on hold when he entered military service with the Army Air Force on March 23, 1943. He served for three years in the military and flew 52 combat missions as an engineer/gunner aboard a Martin B-26 Marauder with the 439th Bomb Squadron of the 319th Bomb Group in Italy, Corsica and Sardinia. Kerr was with the same crew throughout the campaign and, in later years, he would often fix himself a drink, walk into the family room, hold up his glass and say, "Here's to you, guys."
In 1946, Ted Kerr resumed his baseball career, signing with the Salem (Oregon) Senators of the Class B Western International League. Appearing in 81 games he batted a career-best .267 and added a career-high six home runs. The season was also marked by two significant events. On a high note, he met his future wife, Lorraine, that summer. But tragedy struck on June 24, when the team bus of the league’s Spokane Indians veered off the road and down an embankment before crashing and bursting into flames, killing nine men, including Ted Kerr's San Diego High School teammate Fred Martinez.
Ted Kerr's playing days came to an end the following year when he hit just .134 over 31 games with the Senators, but he remained in Salem and went on to work for 30 years as a beer and wine salesman and enjoyed playing golf and attending reunions with his wartime Army Air Force buddies.
Aged 89, Ted Kerr passed away in Keizer, Oregon, on October 17. He is survived by Lorraine, whom he married in 1947, his son Theodore W. Kerr, his daughter Linda M. Rosenthal and his granddaughter Taylor Rosenthal.
A graveside service with military honors is being held at Willamette National Cemetery at 11am today - October 26, 2009.
[The professional baseball career of Frank Kerr, Ted's older brother, spanned 13 seasons. He played triple-A ball with Columbus, San Diego, Milwaukee, Sacramento and Oakland. In his last season - 1954 - aged 36, he batted .309 and hit 23 home runs in 130 games with the Modesto Reds of the California League.]
Created March 27, 2010.
Copyright © 2010 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.