Tuesday, October 14, 2008

William Henry "Wee Willie" Keeler

Recently, on a 19th century baseball mailing list, a request came across for information on any living family members of "Wee Willie" Keeler.

I've heard the name before, but wasn't readily familiar with him. I won't rewrite all of his feats, but he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939, having played from 1892-1910, with a lifetime batting average of .341 (or .343, or .345, depending on which site you look at).

So, to find if there are any living family members, it makes sense to look at the family.

I went to wikipedia to get some basic information about him (born March 3, 1872. died January 1, 1923, both in Brooklyn, NY). Then I hopped on Ancestry.com and found some census records.

I couldn't find the family in the 1880 census, either at Ancestry.com or at FamilySearch.org.

The bulk of the 1890 general population census is missing. I didn't even try to look for it.

His parents (William and Mary) were born in Ireland. He and his brother, Thomas, were born in New York. But the 1900 census says that he was born in 1873 (not 1872 as other sites claim) and is 27 years old. His occupation was "professional ball-player" working 8 months out of the year. The family lived on Pulaski Street in Brooklyn. Other information to be gleaned from this census is that his parents were married for 38 years, making their marriage date to be about 1862. Mary had 5 children, but 2 of them had died.

Source Citation: Year: 1900; Census Place: Brooklyn Ward 21, Kings, New York; Roll: T623 1058; Page: 4A; .


A decade later, Mary has died. Both boys still live with their father on Pulaski Street. William is now 38 years old and continues to be a "professional player" in the industry of "baseball".

Source Citation: Year: 1910; Census Place: Brooklyn Ward 21, Kings, New York; Roll: T624_969; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 519; Image: 956.


William has moved out of the family house and is a boarder on Gale Street, still in Brooklyn. His age is listed as 48, which is consistent, since this census was enumerated in January of that year. He's a "ball player" in the "American League", despite not having played since 1910. And that was with the New York Giants, a National League team. Of the 19 seasons that he played, 12 of them were for NL teams.

Source Citation: Year: 1920;Census Place: Brooklyn Assembly District 5, Kings, New York; Roll: T625_1151; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 259; Image: 334.

I couldn't find any more from a quick search on Ancestry. World Connect at Rootsweb.com wasn't fruitful.

Then I did some general web searching (google is your friend).

Here are some sites about William Henry "Wee Willie" Keeler...
These sites helped me find out a bit more, specifically the obituary and the FindaGrave pages.

From the photos on the FindaGrave site, it appears that he had two other siblings (Ellen and John), both dying young.

From this information, there does not appear to be any direct descendants of "Wee Willie" Keeler. I have made only cursory glances to try to find when and where his parents came to the US. There is more research to be done, but I figured that I should set out what I have learned already.


Angie said...

I always "glaze over" when your brother gets all "computerish" on his blog.

I have to admit I got a bit glazed on this one. . .but then again, it's after midnight. :)

Dan said...

Mark, you're older than I thought if you were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame way back in 1939.

Steve said...

Angie, glazing is for donuts.

But I know what you mean.

Mark, good post. Decent amount of work involved.

Dan said...

Wee Willie was a player that was great from 1893 to 1899. After that from 1900 to 1910, he was only average. Foul balls were not counted as strikes and he would foul them off forever until he got on base.What makes him famous today is the fact that A famous photographer captured lots of his images in the finest photos of the day of him and you could still see them every where. He was a wealthy man who died losing everything during the real estate freeze during WW1 and needed to take money from Majo League baseball because he had nothing. He never married ! Was he Gay?

Dan said...

That wasn't me. That's some other guy named Dan.

I'm Dan formerly of Sierra Vista.