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John "Duck" McKee

 

Date and Place of Birth: July 7, 1910 Ellenwood, GA
Date and Place of Death:    March 6, 1945 Belgium
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Outfield
Rank: First Lieutenant
Military Unit: 109th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division US Army
Area Served: European Theater of Operations

John W. "Duck" McKee, the son of Mamie McKee, was a star athlete at Georgia Tech University, playing football and baseball for four years. The man with the "shy, quet smile" remains in the Georgia Tech baseball record books for hitting the most triples in a game with two, a feat he achieved on three occasions.

In 1932, McKee and Georgia Tech catcher Ike Farmer signed with the hometown Atlanta Crackers of the Class A Southern Association. McKee was assigned to the Colum bus Foxes of the Class B Southeastern League and after batting .310 in 33 games he was recalled by the Crackers. Playing right field at spacious Ponce de Leon Park, and with 45-year-old future Hall of Famer Rube Marquard as a teammate, McKee appeared in 86 games and batted .314. In 1933, he batted .316 in 149 games with the Crackers, leading the team with 184 hits. Despite having former Brooklyn manager Wilbert Robinson at the helm, the Crackers could only manage a seventh-place finish.

Back for a third season with Atlanta in 1934, McKee enjoyed possibly the highlight of his career in early April when the Crackers faced the New York Yankees in two exhibition games featuring Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Having beaten the International League's Toronto Maple Leafs in four straight exhibition contests, the Crackers were steam-rollered, 18-9, by the Yankees on April 3, with two singles from Ruth and two home runs from Gehrig. The following day, the Crackers went down, 10-5, to the American Leaguers with Gehrig contributing another home run. During the regular season, McKee continued to be a consistent hitter, batting .306 in 141 games and leading the Crackers with 167 hits, 34 doubles and 15 triples, as the club sauntered into fourth place.

At the beginning of 1935, McKee was part of a deal that brought big-hitting veteran outfielder Paul Easterling to Atlanta from the Tulsa Oilers of the Class A Texas League. But McKee wanted to stay close to home and refused to report to the Oklahoma club, choosing instead to voluntarily retire from the game. That year, the Crackers won their first Southern Association championship since 1925, while McKee was working as a salesman for Firestone Auto Supplies and Services in Atlanta.

Leaving behind his wife, Mary Holcomb McKee, he entered military service in 1942, and having attended ROTC training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, while still at Georgia Tech in 1931, he quickly attained the rank of first lieutenant. McKee served with the 109th Infantry Regiment of the 28th Infantry Division, carrying the letters he received from his wife, Mary, in his shirt pocket at all times. He arrived in Wales in October 1943 and landed at Normandy in July 1944. Lieutenant McKee and his men fought through Normandy, northern France and into Germany. At one point he was offered the chance to pull out of the front line and return to headquarters with the rank of captain, but McKee chose to remain with his men. He was seriously wounded in action in Germany on March 5, 1945, when he was hit in the stomach by a stray enemy large caliber shell while driving a jeep at night. He was rushed to a hospital in Belgium but died the following day.

John McKee is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Atlanta.

 

Team

League

Class

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

AVG

1932 Columbus
Southeastern B 33 129 24 40 4 8 4 39 .310
1932 Atlanta Southern Assoc A 86 261 36 82 12 2 4 34 .314
1933 Atlanta Southern Assoc A 149 583 72 184 34 14 3 75 .316
1934 Atlanta Southern Assoc A 141 546 86 167 34 15 4 75 .306

 

Sources
Corsicana Daily Sun - March 21, 1945
Georgia Tech Alumnus, The - May-June 1945

Thanks to the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library and John L. Cochrane, son of Joseph D. Cochrane, for help with this biography.

Date Added February 1, 2012 Updated June 16, 2014

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