SABR Salute: Keith Sutton

Editor’s note: The SABR Salute, first bestowed upon writer Fred Lieb in 1976, was designed as a manner of recognizing the contributions of some of the older members of the Society. Subsequent SABR Salutes appeared in the SABR Membership Directory and honored members who had made great contributions to baseball historical research. Keith Sutton (1909-1993), one of SABR’s 16 founding members, received the SABR Salute in 1988; the following biographical sketch appeared in that year’s membership directory.

Keith Sutton saw his first World Series game on Oct. 4, 1928. It impressed him so much he went back the next day. The Yankees defeated the Cardinals in both New York World Series games and Keith got to see such “names” as Alexander, Maranville, Frisch, Bottomley, Ruth, Gehrig, Durocher, and a future SABR member named Waite Hoyt. The Yanks swept the 1928 series but Keith went on to become a New York Giants fan. His career highlight came in 1954 when he saw the Giants sweep the Indians four straight., He also saw Bobby Thomson’s pennant winning homer in 1951.

Keith attended many games in New York and Philadelphia. Neither site was very far from where he was born April 6, 1909, in Bethany in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania. He lived most of his life in the Wayne County seat of Honesdale, where he graduated from high school and attended Wayne Commercial School. He was then employed at the Wayne County Savings Bank until World War II, during which he served nearly three years in the Army. This included 16 months in Europe with the 10th Armored Division.

After the war it was back to the bank. However, he was interested in sports research and was doing some writing on baseball. This led him to work for the Wayne Independent, a tri-weekly in Honesdale. He was assistant editor and sports editor from 1961 through 1983. Since then he has spent his “retirement” as sports columnist for the paper. His wife died in 1979 and they had no children.

Keith’s serious baseball research began about 1950-51. He had met baseball historian/statistician Leonard Gettelson at a World Series game, having previously been aware of his work for The Sporting News. He began assisting Gettelson on various projects like steals of home and consecutive game hitting streaks. Shortly he began to send his own research items to TSN.

On one of his visits to the Cooperstown Hall of Fame Library in the early 1950s, historian Ernie Lanigan showed him a list of all the one-hit games pitched by Hall of Fame members. Keith decided he would research all one-hit games pitched since 1900. It has been a long-running project but he feels he has a complete list. He recorded the type of hit in those games as 235 singles, 148 doubles, 30 triples, and 55 homers. Data on when the hit was recorded was helpful in preparing his interesting 1983 SABR Research Joumal article on no-hitters broken up with two out in the ninth.

Keith never had a lengthy feature article in The Sporting News but did have many boxed items on a wide range of diamond subjects. For five years he had published in TSN the season’s listings of grand slam homers. This was prior to 1958 when the publication began annual grand slam listings in the Baseball Guide. His articles in the Research Joumal included one on pinch grand slams and others on hurlers hitting grand slams and two home runs in one game.

He has continued his work on steals of home and consecutive game hitting streaks. A few years ago he worked on a SABR ad hoc search committee on steals of home which resulted in upward revision of player career totals. When Lou Brock closed out his career in 1979 saying that he didn’t think he ever stole home, Keith quickly came up with one Brock SOH with the Cubs in 1964 and later another one with the Cardinals. On hitting streaks, Keith admits that he probably has only 98 percent of those of 20+ games. However, he is still working on it, having added in the last year or two additional streaks for Sisler, Keeler, and Cobb. For the latter it was his eighth 20+ streak, on all-time record.

In the Honesdale area, Keith has served as president of the Wayne County Baseball League and also has been active in several historical and community organizations. In 1973 he published the hard-cover book entitled Wayne County Sports History. It included 12 pages on Christy Mathewson, who pitched semipro ball for Honesdale in 1898-99. Keith has attended only one national SABR meeting, the original gathering in 1971, but he has attended all the Cooperstown regionals. He also has attended 35 Hall of Fame inductions and has a “consecutive streak” going with the last 26 in a row.

Related link: Read more about Keith Sutton and the other founding members of SABR, “The Cooperstown 16”


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