Baseball in Wartime

Baseball's Greatest Sacrifice

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Charlie Keller


Date and Place of Birth: September 12, 1916 Middletown, Maryland

Died: May 23, 1990 Frederick, Maryland

Baseball Experience: Major League
Military Unit:
US Merchant Marine

Area Served: Atlantic and Pacific

Charlie KellerCharles E “Charlie” Keller was born on September 12, 1916 in Middletown, Maryland. An outfielder, Keller played baseball and basketball at the University of Maryland where he earned a degree in agricultural economics before signing with the New York Yankees in 1937.

Keller played for Newark of the International League his rookie year and led the circuit with a .353 batting average. He hit 13 homeruns, drove in 88 and also led the league in runs (120) and hits (189). Back with Newark in 1938, Keller again led the league in batting average, this time with a .365 mark, and earned the top spot in runs (149) and hits (211).

Not surprisingly, Keller was with the Yankees the following year, making his major league debut on April 22, 1939 against the Washington Senators. Keller played 111 games that year and batted .334 with 83 RBIs. In the World Series against Cincinnati, he batted a remarkable .438 with three homeruns, six RBIs and eighth runs scored. In the third game of the series, Keller became the first rookie to hit two homeruns in a World Series game.

USMS St. Petersburg HeadquartersIn 1940, Keller was an American League all-star, the first of three all-star selections before he entered service in December 1943. He was commissioned an ensign with the Merchant Marine on December 30, 1943, then began training at St Petersburg Maritime Training Station in Florida on January 21, 1944. He was assigned to Sheepshead Bay, New York, in the spring of 1944, where he trained as a purser-pharmacist's mate.

Beginning in the summer of 1944, Keller served at sea aboard the liner Santa Cecilia, which transported troops across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Keller was discharged from service on August 17, 1945, in time to play 44 games for the Yankees before the season ended. Despite his time away from the game he batted .301 and clouted 10 homeruns.

Keller remained with the Yankees through 1949. He was a two-time post-war all-star and following two years with the Detroit Tigers (1950 and 1951) he ended his playing days – due to chronic back problems - with the Yankees in 1952. 

Santa Cecilia
The Santa Cecilia
Charlie Keller
Charlie Keller training to be a purser-pharmacist's mate with the Merchant Marine

Keller coached the Yankees before retiring to run his Yankeeland Horse Farm near his hometown of Middletown, Maryland. He named many of his horses after the New York team: Fresh Yankee, Handsome Yankee, Yankee Slugger and Guy Yankee.

His brother, Hal, was a catcher with the Washington Senators from 1949-1952, going on to serve in front-office positions with the Senators/Texas Rangers (1961-1978), and Seattle Mariners (1979-1985). He served as the Mariners' Vice President, Baseball Operations/General Manager from 1984-1985.

His son, Charlie Jr, led the Eastern League in hitting while playing for Binghamton in 1961 (.349, 19 HRs, 104 RBIs) before succumbing to the same congenital back problem that had plagued his father.

Keller was elected to both the Frederick County and Maryland Sports Hall of Fame, the Kinston Professional Baseball Hall of Fame, and the University of Maryland Hall of Fame. 

Charlie Keller passed away on May 23, 1990 in Frederick, Maryland. He was 73.

Created April 14, 2008.


Copyright © 2008 Gary Bedingfield (Baseball in Wartime). All Rights Reserved.