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Willie Keeler | County Cork

Full Name: William Henry Keeler

Born: March 3, 1872 in Brooklyn, NY

Irish Roots: County Cork

Family Name: Kelleher and Kiley

Surname Origins: Kelleher is an anglicized from the Irish surname Ó Céileachair, meaning “descendant of Céileachar”; Céileachar as a personal name means “spouse-loving”, “companion dear”, or “lover of company”

Accomplishments: 

  • 1897: Batted .424 (1st) with 239 hits (1st)
  • 2× NL batting champion (1897, 1898)
  • NL’s Longest Hitting Streak (tied): 44 games
  • .341 Lifetime Batting Average

Honors:

Bio: William Henry O’Kelleher, Jr., better known as “Wee Willie” Keeler, was born in Brooklyn, March 3, 1872. His parents, William Sr. and Mary Kelleher (née Kiley), were immigrants from County Cork.

Willie stood only five feet four inches tall and weighed a mere 140 pounds. According to legend, his 30-inch bat was the smallest ever used by a major leaguer!

Despite his small stature, Keeler was a hitting machine — he won two National League batting titles and hit safely in 44 straight games, a National League record that still stands! 

He was so good at prolonging at-bats with foul bunts that they had to change the rule. Today, a two-strike bunt is an out because of Wee Willie Keeler.

Keeler is perhaps best known for his hitting strategy. When he was asked by a reporter to explain his approach at the plate, Keeler replied, “Keep your eye clear, and hit ‘em where they ain’t.”

Willie Keeler retired with a .341 lifetime batting average, 2,932 hits, and 495 stolen bases. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.