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Former Phillies lefty McKee passes at age 87

Rogers McKee, a Phillies left-handed pitcher in 1943-44, died on Monday in Shelby, N.C., where he was born and raised. He was 87.

Pitching in the second game of a season-ending doubleheader in Pittsburgh's Forbes Field on Oct. 3, 1943, McKee pitched a complete game in the 11-3 win over the Pirates. At age 17 years and seven days, he was the youngest pitcher to win a game in the modern era of Major League Baseball. McKee's uniform number was 17.

It was the only decision in McKee's five-game big league career -- four games in 1943 and one the following season.

McKee was an outstanding high school and American Legion (Post 82) pitcher in Shelby. During an interview two years ago, he explained how he wound up with the Phils.

"We won the legion state championship in 1942," McKee said. "We were eliminated in the semifinal round the following summer. That night, Cy Morgan, a Phillies scout, wanted to see my dad and me. We met at a hotel in town.

"He offered $3,000 to sign with the Phillies. When he said I would report right away to Philadelphia, pitch some BP, perhaps an exhibition game and make the final road trip, that was the selling point."

McKee's debut came on Aug. 18, 1943, when he was 16. At Shibe Park, he pitched three relief innings and gave up three runs. McKee turned 17 on Sept. 16 and won his historic game 17 days later in a game that took one hour and 48 minutes.

McKee spent most of the 1944 season with the Wilmington Blue Rocks. He wound up bouncing around the Minor Leagues (13 cities) until 1957. McKee returned to Shelby, helped coach his high school and Legion team, worked in the fiber industry briefly and retired after 30 years with the Postal Service.

Born on Sept. 16, 1926, McKee was named after a Hall of Famer.

"Dad was a St. Louis Cardinals fan," he said. "They won the World Series the year I was born, and that's where I got my middle name, after the Hall of Fame second baseman, Rogers Hornsby."

During the 2009 Alumni weekend, McKee and his family were honored by the Phils.

Larry Shenk is the vice president of Alumni Relations for the Phillies.
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