Year Inducted: 1964 (Veterans Committee)
Casey at the Bat was a poem written by Ernest Thayer back in the 1880’s. It deals with the exploits of “Mighty Casey”, a mythological dynamic slugger, trying to win the game for the Mudville team one day but strikes out on three pitches. Thayer’s inspiration came from a game between the Giants and Phillies in August of 1887. In that game, against one of the top pitchers in the game, Dan Casey came up to bat and actually hit a tying single in a game that ended in a draw (so really, he only got the title from a phrase in the article). The mannerisms and motions of the pitcher, however, came from the man who surrendered the tying hit to the real Casey, Giants ace Tim Keefe.
Keefe was one of the top pitchers of the early era. Besides being a part in the historical poem, Keefe put up a record of 342-225 in 14 seasons while pitching over 5000 innings with an ERA of 2.62. Keefe dominated opposing batters, striking out over 2500 while walking slightly more than 1200 batters. Batters couldn’t handle Keefe’s change of pace very well, and managed only a .238 average against the man.
Upon Keefe’s retirement, he ranked first in fWAR, second in wins, first in strikeouts and first in RA9-WAR. Keefe was the first pitcher to reach benchmark numbers like 2000 strikeouts, 100 RA9-WAR and nearly reached 70 fWAR (69.9-Fangraphs says that 60 is usually a Hall of Fame player). He set the gold standard for many pitchers that followed, like Cy Young and Walt Johnson.
Cy Young would come along and blow by a lot of Keefe’s numbers by the time that the sports media really exploded so Keefe fell back in the collective consciousness. Keefe had also passed away by the time the Hall of Fame first voted for its membership, and like many of the other older pitchers, fell even further back in the voters’ minds. As such, it took until 1964 for Keefe to gain his well deserved induction. Keefe was the original top pitcher, and should have been inducted sooner.
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On deck 11/11/16:
#79- This shortstop was the one who replaced Honus Wagner for the Pirates.
#78- This first baseman used to hold the record for most hits in a single season.