Katsy Keifer (Baseball-Reference.com)

Katsy Keifer

This article was written by Vincent T. Ciaramella

Katsy Keifer (Baseball-Reference.com)The Charleroi, Pennsylvania Cemetery isn’t easy to find. The only access point is a steep, deteriorating road which transitions from asphalt to dirt ruts before its terminus. During inclement weather or even days after, the cemetery is inaccessible. However, if conditions are right and the road is clear, one will find the final resting places of two cup-of-coffee players from the early 20th century, Claude Gouzzie and Sherman Carl “Katsy” Keifer. These two men share a few things in common. Both Gouzzie and Keifer only played one major-league game each before returning to the minors. Both men played their game late in the season. Lastly, and most tragic, both men died from tuberculosis at a young age and far away from home.1 While Gouzzie’s life and career have been well documented via the SABR Biography Project, Keifer’s has gone untold. His story follows.

Sherman Carl “Katsy” Keifer was born on September 3, 1891,2 in the small coal mining town of California, Pennsylvania, to David and Mary Keifer (née Brookbank).3 A native of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, David Keifer (1845-1906) was a coal miner whose lineage can be traced back to Frederick Keifer (1704-1759), an immigrant from Einöd in the Saar region of present-day Germany and the third great-grandfather of the ballplayer.4 Keifer’s mother, Mary was also a native of Pennsylvania, though from exactly where isn’t recorded. By 1900 the family had relocated to Charleroi, Pennsylvania. The census that year records six children in the family including: John W. (28), James A. (25), David E. (23), Benjamin H. (10), Sherman C. (8), and Viola M. (6).5 A decade later the 1910 census reports the now 19-year-old Keifer’s occupation as “Laborer” with “Shovel Works” listed under industry.6 This is the extent of information found on Keifer’s pre-baseball years. In 1911 he enters baseball’s historical record.

The first confirmed write up of Keifer on the mound can be found in a box score from the July 30 edition of the Pittsburgh Post. Keifer, a right-handed thrower and a switch-hitter, is listed as pitching for the Charleroi Independents against the Page team of Monessen, Pennsylvania.7 While baseball-reference.com, among others, lists Keifer as a left-hander, he was almost certainly a right-handed pitcher, because (i) newspaper articles on him do not mention his handedness, and lefties are generally identified as such; and (ii) a photograph of Keifer in the South Bend Tribune in 1914 clearly shows him posing with a glove on his left hand.8

It should be noted that there is a May 1909 box score that lists a “Keifer” pitching for the Mifflin (Pennsylvania) Independents and shutting out the East End (Pennsylvania) Amateurs on four hits.9 While it’s possible that this could be Katsy Keifer, the fact that Charleroi is in southeast Pennsylvania and Mifflin is in central Pennsylvania, along with the lack of a first name, leaves the identity of this player in question. To confuse matters even more, there are mentions of a “Keifer” playing for various other teams around the Pittsburgh area between 1910-1912.10 Again it is nearly impossible to ascertain if the Keifer in any of these games is Katsy Keifer. What can be stated is that our subject pitched for Charleroi up to 1912 before signing with the Traverse City (Michigan) Resorters, a Class D team in the Michigan State League, in 1913. Keifer did not pitch badly, allowing less than four runs per game (his ERA is not provided in baseball-reference.com), but his record was a disastrous 1-12.

Keifer moved up to Class C in 1914, pitching for the South Bend Benders (also known as the Hoosiers and the Factors) in the Southern Michigan League.  In July South Bend traded Keifer to the Battle Creek (Michigan) Crickets in the same league.11 He had a stellar season, turning in a record of 22-11 over 286 innings pitched and allowing less than three runs per game. As Europe became engulfed in World War I, a conflict which Keifer would later take part in, a chance of a lifetime loomed on the horizon for him.12

As the 1914 Battle Creek Crickets season came to an end, Keifer signed on with the Indianapolis Hoosiers of the Federal League.13 The FL’s first season was coming down to the wire.  In a 144-game schedule, the Hoosiers were in first place with a record of 87-65.  The Chicago Chi-Feds were 1½ games behind at 86-67. On the last day of the schedule, October 8, Chicago could pull within ½ game of Indianapolis, potentially forcing the Hoosiers to play a make-up game to decide the FL champion. The Chi-Feds took care of their business, beating the Kansas City Packers, 8-3 to improve to 87-67.  The Hoosiers needed a win over the last-place St. Louis Terriers to sew up the pennant.  Indianapolis sent to the mound its Class C call-up, 23-year-old Katsy Keifer, for his big league debut, to face 29-year-old lefty Doc Watson, a 12-game winner that season. After Keifer retired St. Louis in the top of the first inning, Indianapolis struck for two runs in the bottom half to take a 2-0 lead. In the third inning, Keifer yielded a single to pitcher Watson. A Keifer error, a sacrifice, and a wild pitch scored Watson to cut the Hoosier lead in half. Two Terrier hits in the fifth inning tied the score at 2-2. With the Hoosiers batting in the bottom of the seventh, rookie and future Hall of Famer Edd Roush doubled, and Katsy Keifer singled to drive in what turned out to be the winning run. The Hoosiers added an insurance run in the eighth and won the game, 4-2, to take the FL pennant.14 Keifer threw a complete game that was played in an FL record one hour and four minutes. The following day, the New St. Louis Star reported that “Kiefer (sic), a raw recruit hurler from the Southern Michigan League turned the trick…The youngster held the St. Louis aggregation to six hits, while his teammates pounded Watson who opposed him for eleven bingles.”15 Keifer finished his major-league career with a 10 record and a 2.00 ERA. 

While it is unclear if Keifer expected to be picked back up by Indianapolis the following season, a newspaper report on March 9, 1915, in the Port Huron (Michigan) Times-Herald stated that “he signed up with the Indianapolis Feds and pitched a game or so for them. Now, he finds that they have forgotten him: turned him out to grass: declared him a free agent and told him to run along and peddle his papers. He is deeply puzzled. Is he an outlaw himself because, after the regular season of his league ended, he played a game with the Fed? Can he ask and get a job with organized ball? Or must he go carry the hod or drive the dray? This is indeed a curious situation.” It is also noteworthy to mention this article is the first time he is referred to as Katsy. But neither this article nor subsequent articles explain the origins of this curious nickname.16

Despite the grim picture painted by the write-up, Keifer found himself back with the Battle Creek Crickets before the team disbanded in July 1915.17 In the July 14 edition of the Port Huron Times-Herald, an article stated that while most of the team had “joined one club or another,” Keifer was waiting for a call from the Pittsburgh Pirates, a call that never came.18 On July 15 he pitched for Charlotte (Michigan) against the Chicago Leland Giants. During the fifth inning, Keifer gave up several hits, which coupled with errors gave the Leland Giants eight runs. However, he bounced back and was “airtight” for the rest of the game, paving the way for an 11-8 Charlotte victory.19 Keifer pitched a few more games for Charlotte before signing with the St. Joseph (Missouri) Drummers of the Class A Western League.20 His first time on the mound with St. Joseph was against the Wichita Witches where he helped the team to a 4-3 victory.21 Sadly, the rest of the season didn’t fare so well for Keifer. Headlines like “Keifer Hit at Will” and “Tigers Capture the First. Find Keifer Easy and Score Off Him at Random Saturday” blazed across sport sections.22 He finished the season with a 3-11 (.214) record, with a 4.67 ERA.

At the beginning of the 1916 season, it was rumored that the Denver Bears of the Western League were interested in Keifer.23 However, he ended up back in his home state of Pennsylvania playing for the St. Marys Saints of the Class D Interstate League. Also on the team was fellow southwestern Pennsylvanian and future major-league pitcher Johnny Miljus. It was during his time with the Saints that the only known photograph of Keifer in a baseball uniform was taken, other than the photo in the July 1914 South Bend Tribune.24 Based on the photograph and his WWI draft card, Keifer was clean shaven, with brown hair, and blue eyes. He is described on his draft card as tall with a medium build. However, no exact height or weight is listed.25 He finished his time with St. Marys with 11 wins and 11 losses, and a 2.14 ERA for the second-place Saints. He was second in the league in both wins and losses.26  

The following season Keifer went north to play with the Worcester (Massachusetts) Busters (later the Boosters starting in 1918) in the Class B Eastern League. This team would be his home for the next four seasons. After going 10-16 in 1917, World War I cut Keifer’s season short in 1918. With the war in progress, Worcester had a hard time finding professional ballplayers and ended the season with a record of roughly 7-52.  Keifer was 1-8.27 The last box score to contain his name comes from a game played on July 16 against the Hartford Senators where Keifer and his team lost, 5-4.28 Apparently Keifer served in the military, but the author was unable to determine where he served or what he did during the war due to the state of his tombstone and the loss of military records.29 By August 1919 he was back pitching for Worcester in an Eastern League that had been elevated to Class A.30 He won 11 games and lost 6, giving him one of his best seasons. The following season, however, he ended his time on the mound with 5 wins, 11 losses, and a 4.29 ERA, a complete about-face.

Keifer’s exact whereabouts for the 1921 season were revealed in articles published in September 1921 and March 1922. It states that he quit playing baseball for Worcester in August 1920 and played independent ball the following year, including with a team from Monongahela, Pennsylvania.31 On March 23, 1922, the Washington Senators reported that they had signed the 30-year-old hurler.32 One week later, on March 30, it was reported that Keifer was heading to Washington to go on tour.33 However, for reasons unspecified he ended up back in Class B with the Augusta (Georgia) Tygers of the South Atlantic League and was pitching for them by May.34 Keifer finished out the 1922 season with Augusta but in 1923 he was suspended indefinitely without pay by the team for failure to keep in condition.35 He resurfaced in July pitching for the Raleigh (North Carolina) Capitals against the Danville (Virginia) Tobacconists in the Piedmont League.36

In ten minor league seasons overall, Keifer posted a record of 74-104 (.416), with an unknown ERA. This is the last time Keifer’s name can be found in conjunction with baseball until the 1925 census. However, he appears to have been mentioned in an article published in the Washington Evening Star on October 10, 1923, during the Prohibition era. This article details the arrest of a “Sherman C. Keifer,” age 32, and his partner in a “near-beer” saloon at 607 New York Avenue in Washington, D.C, known as the “Bucket of Blood.” The pair were charged with selling intoxicants and illegal possession of liquor before being released on a $2,500 bond each.37 Nothing further was written on the case.

Information about Keifer’s private life is sparse. While the exact date is unknown, he married Rae Wilson and the couple had one child, George Wilson Keifer, born on October 30, 1915. Tragically, the infant died just seven months later from broncho (bronchial) pneumonia on June 12, 1916.38 Keifer was still listed as married on his WWI draft card.39 However, no further mention of Rae can be found in connection with him until his death certificate states that he was divorced.40

Keifer is found in the 1925 New York State Census in residence at the United States Veterans Hospital in Tupper Lake.41 This facility was opened by the Veterans Association to deal with the surge of tuberculosis cases among WWI veterans.42 Two years later on February 19, 1927, Keifer died of TB at United States Veterans Hospital # 79 in Outwood, Kentucky. He was 35. The occupation listed on his death certificate is “Baseball Player.”43



This story was reviewed by Bill Lamb and Rick Zucker and fact-checked by Jeff Findley.



In addition to the sources shown in the notes, the author used Baseball-Reference.com and the following:




US Federal Census reports from 1850, 1880, 1900, and 1910

1925 New York State Census



1 Sherman Keifer death certificate.

2 Keifer’s death certificate lists his birthdate as March 9.

3 Mary Brookbank death certificate.

4 David Kifer Death Certificate; 1880 US Federal Census; 1850 US Federal Census; https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/39257676/daniel-kiefer; https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/89472325/abraham-kieffer; https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/57095682/frederick-kieffer.

5 1900 US Federal Census.

6 1910 US Federal Census.

7 “Charleroi Beats Monessen,” Pittsburgh Post, July 30, 1911: 17.

8 “Beaning of Cricket Kept Katsy from Pitching Shut-Out Game, “South Bend Tribune,” July 11, 1914: 14.

9 “Great Slugging by Mifflin,” Pittsburgh Press, May 16, 1909: 21.

10 “Whitesox Win Easily,” Pittsburgh Press, May 15, 1910: 20. “Arlington Defeats Brown A.C.,” Pittsburgh Post, September 25, 1911: 8. “Collegians Bumped,” Pittsburg Press, September 1, 1912: 18. “Two For Beadling,” Pittsburg Press, September 8, 1912: 23.

11 “Onetime Hoosier Hurler Revenged, South Bend News-Times, July 31, 1914: 8.

12 “Crickets Beat Mt. Clemens in Ten Innings,” Detroit Free Press, July 26, 1914: 16.

13 “Sports Snap Shots,” Port Huron (Michigan) Times Herald, March 2, 1915: 9.

14 “Champion Hoosier Feds Close Season,” Anderson (Indiana) Herald, October 9, 1914: 7.

15 “Jones Terriers Lose Final Game,” St. Louis Star and Times, October 9, 1914: 14; https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/w/watsodo01.shtml.

16 “Sports Snap Shots,” Port Huron Times Herald, March 2, 1915: 9.

17 “Crickets Win and Lose,” Detroit Free Press, June 9, 1915: 13.

18 “S.M. Players Are Through with Baseball,” Port Huron Times Herald, July 14, 1915: 7.

19 “Charlotte Is Winner, 11-8,” Lansing (Michigan) State Journal, July 15, 1915: 8.

20 “St. Johns Wins Off Keifer, 5-3,” Lansing State Journal, July 22, 1915: 8.

21 “Drummers Win One and Then Lose One,” St. Joseph (Michigan) News-Press, July 26, 1915: 8.

22 “Indians Scalp the Drummers,” St. Joseph Gazette, August 19, 1915: 3; “Tigers Capture the First,” St. Joseph News-Press, August 23, 1915: 8.

23 “World of Sport,” St. Joseph News-Press, March 14, 1916: 14.

24 https://www.ebay.com/itm/352450014054.

25 https://www.ebay.com/itm/352450014054; Sherman C. Keifer draft registration card.

26 https://www.statscrew.com/minorbaseball/leaders/l-INSL7/y-1916.

27 https://www.statscrew.com/minorbaseball/stats/t-wb15456/y-1918; Richard Guy, “Katsy Keifer Tells of Life On an All Joy Ball Club; Is Home from Worcester,” Pittsburgh Gazette Times, July 24, 1918: 10.

28 “Worcester’s Good Lead Is Overcome,” Boston Globe, July 17, 1918: 4.

29 https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/43909134/sherman-carl-keifer.

The information on his tombstone is unreadable due to it being almost completely sunken into the ground. Only his name, dates, and the tops of some letters are visible. His official military records were most likely lost in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri. https://www.archives.gov/personnel-records-center/fire-1973.

30 “Sports and Sportsmen,” Fall River (Massachusetts) Globe, August 15, 1919: 10.

31 “Baseball,” Daily Republican (Monongahela, Pennsylvania), September 8, 1921: 1; “Displays Form in Boston Tilt,” Washington (DC) Herald, March 27, 1922: 9.

32 “Griffs’ Mystery Man Revealed as Promising Pittsburgh Youngster,” Washington (DC) Times, March 23, 1922: 18.

33 “Others in Good Condition,” Washington (DC) Evening Star, March 30, 1922: 25.

34 “South Atlantic League,” Roanoke (Virginia) Times, May 2, 1922: 9.

35 “Sherman Keifer Disciplined,” State (Columbia, South Carolina), June 21, 1923: 10.

36 “Danville Takes First from Raleigh; Twins Lose,” Bee (Danville, Virginia), July 31, 1923: 9. Keifer’s Baseball-Reference entry does not include his time with Raleigh.

37 “Needy Wife’s Plea Results in Raid,” Washington Evening Star, October 10, 1923: 12.

38 Rae Wilson death certificate.

39 Sherman C. Keifer draft registration card.

40 Mary Brookbank death certificate.

41 1925 New York State Census.

42 https://www.historicsaranaclake.org/history-matters-blog/tuberculosis-thursday-sunmount.

43 Mary Brookbank death certificate.

Full Name

Sherman Carl Keifer


September 3, 1891 at California, PA (USA)


February 19, 1927 at Outwood, KY (USA)

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