The Board of Directors of the Baseball Reliquary is pleased to announce that Tom Keefe has been selected as the recipient of the 2015 Hilda Award. The award will be formally presented at the Shrine of the Eternals Induction Day on Sunday, July 19, 2015, beginning at 2:00 p.m., at the Donald R. Wright Auditorium in the Pasadena Central Library, Pasadena, California. The festivities will also include the presentation of the 2015 Tony Salin Memorial Award and the induction of the 2015 class of electees to the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals: Sy Berger, Steve Bilko, and Glenn Burke.
Established in 2001 in memory of Hilda Chester, the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers fan, the Hilda Award recognizes distinguished service to the game by a baseball fan. To Baseball Reliquarians, the award is comparable to the Oscar or Emmy: it acknowledges the devotion and passion of baseball fans, and the many ways in which they exhibit their love affair with the national pastime.
The 2015 Hilda recipient, TOM KEEFE was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, the second of nine children and the son of a prominent trial attorney. His childhood was spent playing sports, including Little League Baseball, closely following the Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League and the Brooklyn Dodgers before they were relocated to Los Angeles. A devout Irish-Catholic, Tom spent long hours praying that Seattle would someday have a major league team of its own, and his prayers were briefly answered in 1969 when the Seattle Pilots franchise was awarded. During that one season, he divided his time between his studies at Saint Martin’s College and attending Pilots games as a card-carrying member of the Ray Oyler Fan Club. Tom’s college roommate and basketball teammate was Terry Easter, son of legendary slugger Luke Easter.
Generally seen as a cheerful and upbeat individual, Tom’s bitterness at seeing the Pilots franchise dissolved and the team moved to Milwaukee remains to the present day, and he frequently is heard to mutter, “That goddamn crook!” whenever the name of former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is mentioned. While studying law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Tom became a devoted Washington Senators fan, and was shocked to see that franchise relocated to Texas. Having watched two favorite home teams uprooted, he briefly considered giving up his love of baseball rather than risk having his heart broken for a third time.
While serving in a senior staff position in the United States Senate, Tom had the chance to be involved in discussions regarding the future of the Mariners in Seattle when they faced possible relocation. Following a meeting with Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent, Tom was quoted in Sports Illustrated stating, “We are confident that Commissioner Vincent will meet the Happy Chandler standard and do the right thing and allow Japanese ownership of the team in Seattle.” Tom was later informed that Commissioner Vincent had been personally irritated by the remark, but ended up approving the ownership transfer over the opposition of some influential baseball club owners. As a Mariners fan, he remains happy to this day with Commissioner Vincent’s decision.
An admirer of Eddie Gaedel since first reading about him in 1962, Tom Keefe founded the Eddie Gaedel Society, Spokane Chapter #1, in the summer of 2011 to call attention to the 60th anniversary of Gaedel’s walk into baseball history as a member of the St. Louis Browns. The society meets annually on August 19th at O’Doherty’s Irish Grille & Pub in Spokane. Last year, at Tom’s urging, Spokane Mayor David Condon declared August 19th as “Eddie Gaedel Appreciation Day” in the city. Gaedel Society honorary members include Mike Veeck, son of Bill Veeck, the baseball genius who signed Gaedel, and Bill DeWitt III, son of the St. Louis Cardinals owner whose uniform Gaedel wore in his historic plate appearance. In Tom’s view, “Eddie Gaedel lived the dream that millions of kids have had since baseball was invented. All of us dreamed of stepping to the plate in the major leagues, but only a select few make it. Eddie was one of them. He’s the champion of the little guy!” When not out spreading the “Gaedel Gospel” across America, Tom can usually be found lunching at O’Doherty’s, where a shrine to Eddie Gaedel is located above the bar, or attending Spokane Indians baseball games during the summer months at Avista Stadium, where he holds season tickets.
Tom Keefe will attend the Shrine of the Eternals 2015 Induction Day in Pasadena, California to personally accept the Hilda Award.