Esskay, the financially troubled meatpacking company in East Baltimore, has named an outsider to run the company for the first time in its 126-year history.

Directors of the firm have appointed LeRoy Joseph, 63, head of a Connecticut consulting firm and formerly an executive with American Can Corp., to the post of president and chief executive officer.

William Hupfeldt, 58, the fourth generation of the Schluderberg family to manage the company, will relinquish his responsibilities as CEO, but will continue as the firm's chairman.

Joseph Kershaw, 57, Esskay president for the past three years, returns to his former position as executive vice president and chief operating officer.

The executive changes come just six weeks after Esskay workers agreed to accept wage concessions to keep the company from moving out of Baltimore. The five-year contract, which was signed by the company's three unions, also stipulated that Esskay begin a program to recruit the "best available managerial personnel."

"Attracting better managers is an industry-wide problem," company spokesman Robert L. Walker said. Joseph will look at possible changes in the company's management, Walker added.

Joseph, who has been in the meat-packing industry since 1939, will attempt to improve the company's financial position by cutting costs, procuring state and city financing and improving marketing, Walker said.

Esskay, like the rest of the beleaguered meat-packing industry, faces extremely low profit margins and high volatility in the hog market and has been losing money for years. The company expects losses for the fiscal year ending Oct. 31 to exceed $1 million, compared with a $600,000 loss in 1983.

Esskay, which supplies ballpark hot dogs to Orioles fans and processed meat products to supermarkets, was founded in 1858, when William Schluderberg opened a butcher shop on Butcher Hill in East Baltimore. Schluderberg's business prospered, and, in 1919, merged with the retail meat business of Thomas J. Kurdle. The company was pretty evenly divided between the two families until a few years ago, when Hupfeldt became the prime owner and stockholder.

Esskay's formal corporate name is Schluderberg-Kurdle Co. "Esskay" comes from the first letter in each of those family names -- "S" for Schluderberg and "K" for Kurdle.