November 30 – Happy Birthday Leo Keily

It was a miracle Leo Keily was even alive, much less a big league pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. When he was five years old, he was run over twice by an ice truck in his hometown of Hoboken, NJ. The truck smashed his pelvis and both his legs. Doctors feared he might never walk again, but the youngster was out of the hospital within a month.

Leo joined the Red Sox pitching staff in 1951 as a 21-year-old starter. He went 7-7 in his rookie season with an impressive 3.34 ERA and then went into the military. In 1953, he became the first Major League ballplayer to play in Japan’s professional league and won all six of his Asian decisions. The following year he was back in Beantown. After he went 5-8 as a starter in 1954, the Red Sox moved him to the bullpen. After a good first season as a reliever in ’55, Keily hit a rough patch the following year and couldn’t seem to get anybody out and Boston optioned him down to the San Francisco Seals in the Pacific Coast League. It was with the Seals that Keily accomplished something very unusual in 1957. He led the PCL League that year with 21 victories while making just three starts. His 20 wins in relief remain a PCL record. That performance earned him a return trip to Boston and he responded with his best season in the Majors in 1958 when he went 5-2 with 12 saves. After one more season with the Red Sox, Keily was traded to the Indians. His career record as a Red Sox was 25-25 with 28 saves.

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