Happy Birthday Ted Beard
Today, Ted Beard turns 90 years old. For those not familiar with his body of work, let me tell you something about him and his life growing up on a farm in Frederick County, Maryland. Heâ€™s not the only big-leaguer from around these parts. Over in the tiny town of Woodsboro, where Tedâ€™s from, there was one other major leaguer, named Archie Stimmel.Â He pitched for the Reds just after the turn of the century (not this one; the previous one) and lived in Woodsboro his whole life. Heâ€™s buried there, too.
Anyway, it seems Archie was a bit of a story teller; loved being a celebrity around town, telling tales of his experiences as a teammate of Wahoo Sam Crawford. I canâ€™t say for sure, but I imagine that young Ted probably knew Archie, probably grew up listening to his stories.
The Keller brothers are from Frederick County, too. They grew up in Middletown, which is about twenty miles southwest of Woodsboro. Charlie, of course, was the oldest. He was five years older than Ted and was growing up on a farm the same time as Ted. I imagine most of you have heard of Charlie– went to the University of Maryland and then to the Yankees. You know, DiMaggioâ€™s teammate? Thatâ€™s right; that Charlie Keller. Well, Charlie and Ted once appeared together at a sports banquet at the Woodsboro fire house- famous big leaguers addressing some sports group.
Charlieâ€™s brother, Hal, was eleven years younger than Charlie. He tried to make it as a big-league catcher with Washington but wasnâ€™t as good as Charlie, so Hal went into front office work instead and was wildly successful. Worked for the Senators for many years; even went to Texas with them, then went to Seattle. Hal didnâ€™t know Ted, but back in those days the local newspaper, The Frederick News, used to run a daily feature called â€œHow Theyâ€™re Hittinâ€™â€, and both Tedâ€™s and Charlieâ€™s major league averages would be posted. Hal followed those results when he was a kid, keeping track of his brother, so he knew all about Ted Beard.
There was another Keller brother, too, named Hugh. He was the middle son and just two years older than Ted. Word has it that Hugh was a mighty fine ballplayer himself, maybe as good as Charlie. Even went to the University of Maryland like Charlie. But World War 2 stole his career, so Hugh played semipro ball around Frederick County instead of trying to make it in the pros. Ted and Hugh were playing semipro ball at the same time in Frederick County and probably played against each other. At least, thatâ€™s what Hal thinks.
Anyway, one week in 1942 the Pirates came to Frederick– thatâ€™s the capitol of Frederick County, just ten miles from Tedâ€™s home in Woodsboro– and held a tryout camp. Ted went there and made good, ended up signing a contract with Pittsburgh. Went into their minor league system, then to the military for a couple of years, and then made it to the majors in â€™48. No use boring you with details. Ted didnâ€™t turn out to be much of a major league hitter- except for one thing, and itâ€™s a big one: in July 1950, he hit a home run over the roof at Forbes Field. It was amazing. He ended up hitting only six in his short career and one went out of Forbes Field. Not only that, but earlier that same season he hit one on top of the right field pavilion roof at Sportsmanâ€™s Park in St. Louis.
You know what was most amazing about those shots? Ted was a little guy: just 5â€™8â€ tall, about 160 pounds. Imagine a guy of that size hittinâ€™ those home runs.
Well, Ted didnâ€™t do very well in the majors, but he had quite a minor league career. In 1953, in fact, he hit four home runs in one game during the first week of the Pacific Coast League season and then later that month he went 12 for 12. The league record was 13 straight; unfortunately, though, on his thirteenth trip, Ted flied out. But in his next two at bats, he then singled two more times. Imagine: 14 hits in 15 trips. Now thatâ€™s pretty good hittin. They gave him an award for that hittinâ€™. Itâ€™s on display back in the Hall of Fame Sports Museum in Frederick County.
Oh yeah, and one more thing. Ted gained most of his fame playing at Triple-A Indianapolis with the Indians. One year, guess who his roommate was? Roger Maris! I canâ€™t say for sure, but I think Ted really got a kick out of that.
Those folks in Indy took to calling him â€˜The Armâ€™, on account of his throwing. Man, he could fire that ball. He set assists recordsâ€”31 in one season! Back when he was playing semipro ball in Woodsboro, Ted was a pitcher, so I guess that explains his arm.
And he was fast, too; once raced Bobby Thomson as a matter of fact, although Ted lost. Of course, Thomson was way bigger than Ted. Ted got out of the blocks pretty fast, but Thomson, with those long strides of his, passed Ted like he was standing still. But Ted sure stole a lot of bases.
Anyway, if you see Ted today at his house in Indy, wish him a happy birthday. 90 years oldâ€”Wow! It seems like only yesterday when that ball went out of Forbes Field. I wonder what ever happened to it? Oh well, it donâ€™t matter. Itâ€™s the memories that count.
Happy Birthday, Ted.
This tongue- in- cheek summary is basedon Ted Beardâ€™s formal bio posted today on the SABR BioProject website. Find it at www.bioproj.sabr.org. Also, next month, in time for spring training, Chipâ€™s article on Charlie Keller and the 1941 World Series will appear in Maple Street Pressâ€™s Yankees Annual 2011.