Willie Keeler (March 3, 1872 - January 1, 1923), nicknamed "Wee Willie", was a right fielder in Major League Baseball who played from 1892 to 1910, primarily for the Baltimore Orioles and Brooklyn Superbas in the National League, and the New York Highlanders in the American League.
Keeler was a remarkable hitter, whose advice to hitters was, "Keep your eye clear, and hit 'em where they ain't" -- "they" being the opposing fielders. He compiled a .341 batting average over his career, currently 14th all time behind Pete Browning. He hit over .300 16 times in 19 seasons, and hit over .400 once. He twice led his league in batting average and three times in hits. Willie had an amazing 206 singles during the 1898 season. Additionally, he had an on-base percentage of greater than .400 for seven straight seasons. When Keeler retired in 1910, he was second all time in hits with 2,932 behind only Cap Anson.
He was one of the smaller players to play the game, standing approximately 5'7" (some sources say he was as short at 5'4") and weighing 140 pounds (64 kg), resulting in his nickname. Keeler was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939. He is easily the shortest player elected to the Hall, and to The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players, where he ranked number 75. Having played his last game in 1910, he was the most chronologically distant player on the list.
Keeler had the amazing ability to bunt practically any ball sent his way. He was the impetus for the rule change that made a third-strike foul bunt into a strike out. With John McGraw's Baltimore Orioles he perfected the "Baltimore Chop" in which he would chop the ball into the ground hard enough for it to bounce so high he could reach base before the fielder could throw the ball to first.
In 1897, Keeler had a 44-game hitting streak to start the season, beating out the previous single season record of 42, set by Bill Dahlen. Keeler had a hit in his final game of the 1896 season, giving him a National League record 45-game hitting streak. This mark was finally surpassed by Joe Dimaggio in 1941, who had a 56-game hitting streak. In 1978, Pete Rose tied Keeler's single season mark of 44 games. No other player in baseball has ever matched this feat. Another one of Keeler's unbroken records is his eight consecutive seasons with 200 hits or more.
Willie Keeler is interred in Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York.