Painting commemorating baseball legend, Fred ‘Lefty’ Miller, donated to city of Darwin and its museum
By Kristen Miller
DARWIN, MN The story of Fred “Lefty” Miller had been forgotten until Darwin native Dave Kelly began researching the baseball legend, whose career began with town ball.
“Now we’ve created something that will last and it won’t be easy to forget him again,” Kelly said of the painting commemorating Miller’s baseball achievements that was recently presented to the city of Darwin and the Darwin Museum.
The painting, titled “Lefty Miller on the Mound,” was done by Lavona Keskey, a Cokato native, and is a recreation of the July 4, 1908 game at Lexington Park in St. Paul.
In that particular game, 21-year-old Miller pitched a four-hit shutout for the St. Paul Saints, defeating the Minneapolis Millers 3-0, according to Kelly.
Miller had just completed his studies at the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul a month earlier. Prior to starting medical school, Miller joined the Saints for the summer, Kelly reported, explaining the Saints and the Millers were one level below major league baseball.
Kelly was instrumental in Miller’s 2007 induction to the University of St. Thomas Athletic Hall of Fame based on his pitching record 100 years prior, which include a 13-2 won-loss record.
Throughout medical school, Miller continued pitching during the summer months, joining his teams after the season started, Kelly explained.
In 1909, Miller pitched for Seattle; for Vancouver in 1910; and Oakland and Tacoma in 1911.
The painting, Kelly said, “is representative of one of [Lefty’s] good ball games . . . and is evidence of the high-caliber pitcher he was.”
A few years following Miller’s Hall of Fame induction, Kelly came across the work of Lavona Keskey from articles he had seen in the Enterprise Dispatch.
Impressed with the detail in her work, Kelly contacted Keskey, who now lives in Plymouth, and shared his idea for a baseball scene.
There was a lot of research Kelly put into finding just what Lexington Park looked like at the beginning of the century as well as the players and fans.
Though the painting is not an exact replica of the St. Paul ball park, there is a lot of resemblance, Kelly said, who found a photo from 1903 five years earlier in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
From the scattered housing in the background to the signs on the outfield fence, “We don’t think we’re too far off,” Kelly said.
Kelly is very pleased with the painting. “We like the painting a lot,” he said after he and his wife saw the painting.
“What’s impressed me most is the reaction of other people,” Kelly said, noting compliments from those familiar with Lefty’s story.
For Kelly, though, it isn’t so much the scene that’s significant, it’s highlighting what a terrific ball player Lefty Miller was.
“I’m convinced he’s one of the best pitchers to come out of Minnesota,” Kelly said.
This painting “is to keep Lefty’s story from being forgotten and to make it known,” Kelly said.
Kelly presented “Lefty Miller on the Mound” to the city of Darwin July 21, along with a duplicate painting to be permanently placed in the Darwin Museum next to the baseball exhibit.
“We’re proud of our baseball history,” said Mayor Josh Johnson, who also commended Kelly for his work in keeping Miller’s story alive.
Darwin Museum Director Roger Werner is excited to add this work of art to the baseball exhibit.
“We’re just fortunate to have it here we’re fortunate to have Dave,” Werner said. Kelly was instrumental in the work that went into the baseball exhibit, including photos and memorabilia from Darwin town ball.