Happy Birthday, “Big Hank” Keupper!

“With old Sol pouring his hottest rays upon the south side diamond and the heat fairly sizzling, the Bloomers took the Decaturites into camp Monday. It was a hot day, but Henry Keupper fairly dotes on such temperature. Born on the Sahara Desert, raised upon the Siroccos, and spending his vacations upon the Tropic of Capricorn, he welcomed the dispensation by the weather man. The bleachers were hotter than a laundry during ironing time and the fans resembled fried eggs after they ambled to the cars.” – Decatur Herald, 17 June 1913, Page 4.

Henry Keupper was a side-armed lefty, tall and stout, who jumped from his minor league post in Bloomington to pitch for the St. Louis Terriers of the Federal League. Henry Keupper went 8 – 20 for St. Louis, but because he was a “jumper” – and the National and American Leagues were trying to get rid of the Federal League – the National Commission frowned about jumpers to that league and Keupper would be banished from professional baseball for good.

Henry John Keupper was born on 24 June 1887 in Staunton, Illinois to Henry A. and Mary (Kowans) Keupper, both German immigrants. The father was a mine manager and his wife took care of six active kids. Henry wasn’t the only ball player in the family; his brothers Eddie, Hubert and Hugo both played minor league ball. Hugo was Henry’s catcher with Bloomington in 1913.

At first, Keupper played semi-pro baseball in the Trolley League in Southern Illinois where he was discovered by Peoria manager Frank Donnelly, who happened to be hunting in the area. Initially a bit wild, Donnelly sent him to Douglas for some training but brought him back to Peoria for 1908. At the end of the season, he was drafted by the New York Giants.

Keupper made a strong impression during spring training with the Giants in 1909. There, he won several decisions in exhibition games and John McGraw wanted to keep the hard throwing lefty for his team. Of course, the Giants were loaded with pitchers then, so he was sold to Indianapolis instead. Keupper was moved around some, first returned to Peoria, then traded to Nashville before going back to Bloomington for the 1912 season.

In late July of 1913, Henry took leave of Bloomington in the Three-Eye League. He claimed to be sick, but reports came back that he was actually pitching for the Terriers under the assumed name “Hank King”. Keupper jumped to the Federals for good in 1914.

Keupper jumped his Federal League team, too, but only for a couple of days to marry Lena Durgess, the daughter of Dr. W. J. Durgess of Johnson City, IL. Like his baseball career, his marriage ended rather abruptly. He later married Amy (or Amie) Fry, but they never had children.

His baseball career over, Keupper returned to central Illinois where he worked a variety of jobs, including farming, mining, and owning a grocery store in Shawneetown and Pittsburg, IL for several years.

A year after his wife, Amy, passed, Henry died on 14 August 1960.


“Rapid”, Cincinnati Enquirer, 01 November 1908, Page 37.

“Keupper Goes to Indianapolis”, Decatur Herald, 02 April 1909, Page 3.

“Johnny Duggan Traded For One Henry Kuepper”, Nashville American, 8 Febriary 1910, Page 6.

“Henry Keupper Has Been Sick”, Decatur Daily Review”, 02 August 1913, Page 5.

“Lost Blooming Pitcher Is Found Playing With Feds”, Rock Island Argus and Daily Union, 05 August 1913, Page 3.

“Hank Keupper Gets Married”, Quad-City Times, 24 April 1914, Page 20.

“Ball Players Come With Bat in Hand”, Bloomington Pantagraph, 20 April 1915, Page 11.

“Rites Wednesday for Henry J. Keupper”, Southern Illinoisan (Carbondale, IL), 15 August 1960, Page 3.

US Census Data, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930.

US Draft Registrations, World War I and World War II.


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