Which Yankee All-Star hated being called King Kong?
Though he stood just 5-foot-10 and weighed 185 pounds, former New York Yankees power hitter Charlie Keller earned the nickname “King Kong” for the prodigious hits he smacked.
Keller was also known as one of the strongest players in the locker room with massive arms covered in thick hair. Though Keller often joked about being ugly, he never liked being called King Kong. In fact, Keller picked up Phil Rizzuto and stuffed him into an empty locker when the 5-foot-6, 150-pound shortstop dared to call him by his unwanted moniker.
In lighter moments, Keller joked with other players about who would be on the All-Ugly team. Keller and Red Sox pitcher Mike Ryba often chided each other about who was uglier between the two and who would be on their All-Ugly team.
“There’s no one uglier than you in baseball,” Ryba once said to Keller, according to David Halberstam.
“Yes there is,” said Keller, who turned and looked at Yogi Berra. “It’s all over for you. You’re off my team. You’re no longer ugly enough.”
Keller earned his nickname at the University of Maryland, and though he didn’t prefer to be called King Kong, he was widely admired by his teammates. Though he clearly had a sense of humor from his joking with Ryba, Keller was a steady voice in the locker room.
Keller played 11 of 13 seasons with the Yankees, playing in three World Series and being named an All-Star five times.
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David Halberstam, Summer of ‘49 (New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006).