Major League Baseball’s first amateur draft was held in June 1965. Teams chose players in reverse order of the previous season’s standings, with picks alternating between the National and American Leagues. With the first pick, the Kansas City Athletics took Rick Monday, an outfielder from Arizona State University.
Originally, three separate drafts were held each year. The June draft, which was by far the largest, involved new high school graduates, as well as college seniors who had just finished their seasons. Another draft was held in January, which typically involved high school players who graduated in the winter, junior college players, and players who have dropped out of four-year colleges. Junior college players were required to wait until their current season was completed before they could sign. Finally, there was a draft in August for players who participated in amateur summer leagues. The August draft was eliminated after only two years, while the January draft lasted until 1986.
Ron Keller was an eighth round selection and the 143 pick overall by the Minnesota Twins in MLB’s first amateur draft that was held in New York City in 1965. Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan was the New York Mets 12 round pick and 295th overall that same year. The Twins selected the 6’2″ Keller out of Indiana University as a right-handed pitcher.
From 1957 to 1961 Keller earned six letters at Cathedral High in Indianapolis playing baseball and basketball. According to teammates, Keller was a very intelligent player and knew how to keep the ball down and to throw strikes. At IU Keller majored in accounting and played under Ernie Andres who had a short stint in the big leagues as a third baseman for the Boston Red Sox in 1946. After retiring from baseball Andres coached the IU baseball team from 1949-1973.
After being drafted and signed by the Twins, Keller was assigned to the St. Cloud Rox (A) where he led the league in wins with 9 (3 losses) and he completed 11 of the 14 games that he started. Keller posted a 2.03 ERA and he struck out 132 batters in 111 innings.
In 1966 started the season with the Wilson Tobs (A) where he was 4-2 in 55 innings before being bumped up to the Charlotte Hornets (AA) where he was 3-0 in 48 innings. After his brief stop in Charlotte he was assigned to the Denver Bears (AAA) where he started seven games and posted a 5-1 record. When Camilo Pascual took one of his annual trips to the DL, Keller was called up by the mother club and he made his inauspicious big league debut at Met Stadium on July 9, 1966 in an 8-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers, just barely a year after being drafted and starting his professional career. Keller shut down the Tigers in 2 of the 3 innings he pitched but he gave up 3 “earnies” in the middle inning. Keller only appeared in one more game again in relief for the Twins in 1966 before being send down. Advancing from “A” ball to the big leagues in just one year after signing was very impressive indeed.
Ron Keller spent all of 1967 in the minors at Denver (AAA) and posted and 10-11 record with a 4.78 ERA. Keep in mind we are talking Denver which was no easier to pitch in then than it is now. Keller spent most of 1968 with Denver again but was called up by the Twins and appeared in just 7 games in 3 months with the parent club. In the spring of 1969 the Twins brain trust wanted to ship Keller back out to AAA but Keller said “no” and retired from baseball at the age 25. “I thought I had nothing more to prove in the minors,” he said. “Twins owner Calvin Griffith refused to trade me, and wouldn’t believe my threats to quit baseball.”
You have to wonder if either Griffith or Keller regretted their stubbornness and their decision.