Baseball in Wartime

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Ken Keltner


Date and Place of Birth: October 31, 1916 Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Died: December 12, 1991 New Berlin, Wisconsin

Baseball Experience: Major League
Third Base
Military Unit:
US Navy

Area Served: Pacific Theater of Operations

Ken Keltner with Milwaukee 1937Kenneth F “Ken” Keltner was born on October 31, 1916 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He signed with Fieldale of the Bi-State League in 1936 and enjoyed a memorable rookie season, batting .360 with 33 home runs and 116 RBIs.

The young third baseman was quickly moved up to Milwaukee of the American Association in 1937 and continued to tear the cover off the ball with a .310 average and 27 home runs.  The Cleveland Indians brought him up at the end of the year and he made his major league debut with a single plate appearance in a 12-5 win against Detroit on October 2. 

Keltner became the Indians regular second baseman for the next seven years, making five all-star appearances and hitting home runs in double figures over five seasons.

On March 20, 1945 – six weeks before the surrender of Germany - Keltner entered military service with the Navy. He was initially stationed at Great Lakes Naval Training Station, then to the Training and Distribution Center in Shoemaker, California, where he played baseball with Dick Wakefield while they were awaiting overseas assignment. Following VJ Day, Keltner was stationed at Aiea Barracks in Hawaii.

He was discharged on March 15, 1946, and rejoined the Indians. He enjoyed a further four seasons with the Indians, including 1948, when he hit a career-high 31 home runs (third best in the American League) and 119 RBIs.

Keltner was 33 when he was released by the Indians in the spring of 1950. The Red Sox signed him and he played thirteen games before being released in June. Keltner played one last season in professional baseball with Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League in 1951 before ending his playing days.

Ken Keltner passed away on December 12, 1991 in New Berlin, Wisconsin. He was 75.

Created February 14, 2008.

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