Bob Kehoe, who had been the last known surviving member of the 1947 Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri (KOM) League champion Miami Owls baseball team and a National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee, died Monday, Sept. 4, in St. Louis, Missouri. He was 89.
Kehoe was the only man to captain and coach the U.S. men’s national soccer team.
“Bob Kehoe was one of the first guys with whom contact was made when the search for former KOM leaguers began,” KOM historian John Hall said. “Thus, he had a prominent space in my first book, ‘Majoring in The Minors.’ We spoke a number of times regarding his years in pro ball, his first being at Topeka, Kansas, in 1946.”
The following season, owner Fido Murphy moved his KOM affiliate from Chanute, Kansas, to Miami and Kehoe was sent there.
“He was one of six guys to try their hand at third base for that pennant winning team,” Hall said.
The Owls won the 1947 regular-season title with a 76-49 record.
They won the first round of the playoffs against the Bartlesville Oilers 3-1 then won the championship with a 4-1 edge against the Iola Cubs, who had finished second in the regular-season standings.
Miami was called the Owls in 1947-49 but also were known as the Miami Blues in 1946 and Miami Eagles in 1950-52.
The league folded before the 1952 championship series that pitted the Eagles against the Ponca City Dodgers.
Kehoe briefly quit baseball, but returned in 1949, playing at Carthage, Missouri.
Then in July 1948 he went to the Duluth Dukes when a bus crash killed four players and the manager and injured 13 other members of the team.
Kehoe finished the ’48 season with the Dukes, then became property of the Brooklyn Dodgers and played for them through the 1950 season.
According to his obituary in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kehoe returned to St. Louis and starred with a number of local soccer clubs, including the powerful Kutis side that dominated in the U.S. Amateur Cup and won the U.S. Open Cup title in 1957.
Kehoe earned four caps as captain of the U.S. squad during World Cup qualifying in 1965. In 1967, he joined the St. Louis Stars soccer club in the public relations department, serving as color commentator on the team’s broadcasts. The next season, he even played in one game.
Kehoe became the first American-born coach in the North American Soccer League when the Stars promoted him in 1969.
He relied heavily on St. Louis-area talent over the next two seasons and was the first coach in NASL history to play a game with American-only players.
Kehoe was voted into the St. Louis Soccer Hall of Fame in 1983 and into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1989. He was named to the Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1989 and inducted into the St. Louis Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999.
“Just an incredible man,” longtime friend and fellow St. Louis soccer standout Pat McBride told the Post-Dispatch. “I played with, against and for Bob during my career. He was an incredible storyteller and just a humble, approachable man. As a player, I’ve heard people kid that your team was down 1-0 as soon as Bob stepped on the field against you.”
Hall said that with the passing of Kehoe, every roster player of the 1947 Owls now has died.
The only one possible roster member remaining is Joseph Leo Carroll Jr., who joined the Owls a couple weeks into the’47 season as a utility infielder, but no documentation has been seen that said he ever had an official at-bat.
“As each year passes the ranks of the former KOM leaguers melt like snow on a warm day,” Hall said. “That is why I’m happy, that over 20 years ago, a search was initiated to find those fellows, speak with them and document their memories of the glory days of Class D baseball.”