Matthew Lon Keough is the son of Marty Keough, who played professional baseball with the Nankai (now Fukuoka SoftBank) Hawks in 1968. He was born on July 3, 1955, and was raised in southern California. Drafted out of high school by the Oakland Athletics, he was selected as an infielder and only made the transition to pitcher in his third year in the minors – just over a year before he would make his major league debut.
Despite being named to the all-star game in 1978, his rookie season (he would finish with an ERA of 3.24 but a lopsided 8-15 record), he established a major league record (which has since been matched) of 28 consecutive starts without earning a win. The streak took place over parts of two seasons, and in 1979 his 2-17 record would be one of the worst winning percentages for a pitcher in the modern era. He finally hit his stride in 1980, though, earning Comeback Player of the Year for bouncing back with a solid 16-13 record and a 2.92 ERA. The next two seasons he would pile up double digit totals in the win column, though 1982 was among his worst statistically. Eighteen losses to go with his 11 wins were a league high, as were his home runs against (38) and earned runs (133) totals. He also walked more guys than he struck out (101 to 75).
A trade to the New York Yankees along with arm injuries slowed his major league career down, and by the time he was finishing up in America he was pitching in the minors.
Keough joined the Hanshin Tigers in 1987, who were just two seasons removed from winning the Nippon Series in 1985. The team finished poorly in ’86, and named Keough their Opening Day starting pitcher – an honor that had never in NPB history been bestowed upon a first-year import. Though the team finished the year an embarrassing 41-83-6 (a distant last place), Keough accrued 11 wins and finished with the tenth best ERA in the Central League. He would once again collect more wins than any other Hanshin pitcher over the next two seasons (12 of the team’s 51 wins in 1988 and 15 of the team’s total of 54 in 1989). Unfortunately, a leg injury slowed him down in the spring of 1990, and its effects limited his workload and win total to just 7. He was released that offseason.
Keough managed to do some damage with his bat as well. He was a rare import pitcher who could put the ball over the fence, doing so twice in league play. Despite the team going a grand total of 115 games below .500 during his stint with the club, he finished a game above par. He was apparently a favorite of second baseman Akinobu Okada, who said his curve was one of the best he’d ever seen, and that playing behind Keough always gave him the feeling that the team could win.
Upon returning to America, Keough attempted a comeback, but took a foul ball off the temple and required emergency surgery, essentially ending his baseball career. He has done minor league coaching and scouting for several major league clubs. He is mentioned (as an A’s scout) in the famous book “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis.