Former A's Pitcher Matt Keough Dies at Age 64

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMay 3, 2020

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1981: Matt Keough #27 of the Oakland Athletics pitches during an Major League Baseball game circa 1981. Keough played for the Athletics from 1977-83. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Focus On Sport/Getty Images

Former MLB pitcher and Oakland Athletics special assistant Matt Keough has died at the age of 64, the team announced Saturday.

A's Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Billy Beane contributed the following statement:

"Matt was a great baseball man and a proud Oakland A. He had an incredible passion for the game and we were lucky to have him and his wealth of knowledge alongside us for the years he worked as a Special Assistant. He left an unforgettable impression on everyone he touched in baseball. Our sincere condolences are with the entire Keough family tonight."

Keough played an integral part in the team's transformation from league laughingstock to playoff contender in the early 1980s.

The A's finished last in the American League West with a 54-108 record in 1979, capping three straight years of finishing in the division basement or the next level up.

However, under the managerial leadership of Billy Martin, the A's engineered a 29-win improvement in 1980, good enough to finish second in the West. Keough, who went 2-17 with a 5.04 ERA in 1979, improved to 16-13 with a 2.92 ERA just one year later. He earned AL Comeback Player of the Year honors for his efforts.

That feat is more remarkable in retrospect considering that Martin used his starting pitching staff as much as possible, with the 1980 team's five starters all pitching between 211 and 290 innings.

The A's combined for 94 complete games, with Keough contributing 20. To put that number in perspective, no MLB pitcher had more than three last year.

The A's then took another big step in 1981 by winning the AL West in the first half of a strike-shortened season. That was in part because of a group called the "five aces" in Keough, Rick Langford, Steve McCarty, Brian Kingman and Mike Norris.

They swept the Kansas City Royals in three games in the AL Division Series before finding themselves on the opposite end of the same result against the New York Yankees in the AL Championship Series.

Keough was a tough-luck loser in the third and deciding game, giving up just one earned run in 8.1 innings.

He played one-and-a-half more seasons in Oakland before being traded to the New York Yankees in 1983. Keough also pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros before making his final MLB pitch in 1986.

Keough then played four years for Nippon Professional Baseball's Hanshin Tigers from 1987 to 1990 before calling it a career.