The Royals had a day off, traveling to the Northeast for a six-game road trip, with three games in Boston and three in New York. In a scheduling oddity, this would be their last off day until one before the last series of the season, on September 29. With a doubleheader on September 1, caused by a rainout in June, the Royals faced the daunting prospect of 35 games in the next 34 days.
Continuing our series about some of the lesser-known 1969 Royals, let’s meet outfielder and occasional first baseman Joe Keough, who can claim to be the answer to a couple of different trivia questions.
Joseph William Keough (pronounced KEY-oh) was born on January 7, 1946, in Pomona, California. His family included brother Marty Keough, 11 years older, who would also play in the major leagues. Joe was starring in baseball and football for Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, California when the Athletics—the Kansas City Athletics—drafted him in the second round of the 1965 amateur draft. Keough gave up a promising career as a quarterback (he was a junior college All-American in 1963 and had accepted a football scholarship at Arizona State) for baseball.
The A’s started Keough at Class A Burlington (Iowa) in 1966, and it wasn’t great. He hit .225/.338/.370 in 459 plate appearances, although he did pop 14 home runs. But 1967 was much better. Still at Class A, this time for Leesburg (Florida), he hit .294/.375/.475 and led the league in home runs, hits, total bases, and RBIs.
After hitting .299/.358/.455 in 354 plate appearances for Class AA Birmingham in 1968, Keough made his major league debut with the now-Oakland A’s on August 7 of that year. It was a memorable debut. As a pinch-hitter, in Yankee Stadium, Keough homered off Lindy McDaniel in his first major-league at-bat. Although he was a year too late to join the list of players who played in Kansas City for both the A’s and Royals, he did join the list of players who homered in their first at-bat.
Despite his minor-league promise, the A’s left Keough unprotected in the expansion draft. A left-handed hitting outfielder with some pop and some speed is a good prospect for an expansion team, and the Royals used their fourth pick (eighth overall) to select Keough.
Since the Royals were an expansion team, jobs were wide open. Keough had a good spring training and made the Opening Day roster. However, he wasn’t in the lineup for that first game. Instead, he would etch his name in the Royals’ history books with a simple pinch-hit single. It came in the 12th inning and scored the winning run in the franchise’s first game.
Keough went on to hit just .187/.254/.199 in 183 plate appearances for the Royals in 1969, including a horrific 1-for-44 slump. But he had a solid season for Class AAA Omaha, hitting .314/.365/.452 and helping the O-Royals win the American Association title.
Entering the 1970 season, Keough was in the mix for the one outfield spot up for grabs, joining Lou Piniella and new acquisition Amos Otis. He started the season on the bench but got his chance when Piniella badly sprained an ankle in early May. Keough had hits in 10 of his first 11 games as a starter, and when Piniella was ready to return in early June, Keough stayed in the lineup as a first baseman.
Things were going great for Keough. He was hitting .322/.393/.443 on June 28, after he singled in the fifth inning of the second game of a doubleheader against California in Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium. Keough had changed his spikes to a new pair between the two games. He was on second base when Otis singled to right field. Keough made the turn at third, headed home and slid in ahead of the throw. But his new spikes caught on the corner of home plate, and he had broken his right leg and badly dislocated his right ankle. His promising season was over. After surgery to repair the leg, he was in a cast for almost two months.
Keough was ready to go when spring training started in 1971, but he would never be the same hitter. Although he started over half the Royals’ games in right field, he hit a disappointing .248/.316/.325 in 392 plate appearances. The Royals added Richie Scheinblum before the 1972 season and installed him as the right fielder. Keough had just 76 plate appearances in the majors for the Royals, batting .219/.324/.250. He was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Jim Lyttle before the 1973 season, and would only play in five games for Chicago in 1973. Those were his last major-league games. At age 27, he walked away from baseball.
Keough would go into real estate, eventually becoming a vice president of real estate and construction for a large chain of eyewear retailers. He is retired and lives in San Antonio. But every Opening Day, his name comes up in Kansas City.
Today’s birthday: Neal Musser (1980)