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Ed Killian

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1909-11 T206 Ed Killian (Portrait)

Edwin Henry Killian
(Twilight Ed)

  • Bats Left, Throws Left
  • Height 5' 11", Weight 170 lb.

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[edit] Biographical Information

Ed Killian was a left-handed pitcher who played mostly for the Detroit Tigers in the first decade of the 20th Century.

Born of German immigrant parents in Racine, WI, he played amateur baseball in his home state before playing his first professional season for Rockford of the Three-I League in 1902. He made his debut with the Cleveland Naps at the belated age of 26 in 1903. He saw only limited action that year, starting 8 games, and was traded to the Tigers in the off-season, alongside pitcher Jesse Stovall for outfielder Billy Lush. Killian spent all of 1904 in the Tigers' starting rotation, compiling a 14-20 mark with a solid 2.48 ERA in 330 innings. He then won 23 games and pitched a league-leading 8 shutouts in 1905.

Killian had a tremendous sinker that he used to induce countless ground balls, relying on his defense to do the job behind him. He struck out relatively few batters, but was outstanding at keeping the ball in the park: after giving up a home run late in his rookie campaign with Cleveland, he did not give up another one until August 7, 1907, a shot by Socks Seybold of the Philadelphia Athletics; he had gone 1001 innings between the two blasts ! In 1906, Killian was embroiled in controversy. Unhappy with the poor run support provided by his teammates, he arrived at Bennett Park drunk one afternoon in August and threw a tantrum in the clubhouse before leaving the team. Manager Bill Armour fined him $ 200 for his behavior and suspended him. He remained on the sidelines until September 19. That year, he was also part of a clique of veterans led by left fielder Matty McIntyre who razzled the Tigers' uncouth rookie from the backwoods of Georgia, Ty Cobb, treatment for which Cobb extracted payback from everyone who crossed his path for the next two decades. The team was racked by dissension and performed poorly that year, leading to Armour's firing and his replacement by Hughie Jennings. For his part, Killian finished the season with a record of 10-6, 3.43.

In 1907, things turned around completely. McIntyre was benched and then suffered a season-ending injury, but the offense led by Cobb and Sam Crawford came into its own and Killian was outstanding on the mound, putting up a record of 25-13, 1.78 in 314 innings. Still, Jennings chose to sit Killian during the World Series against the Chicago Cubs, arguing he was tired. He was only used for a relief appearance in Game 3, replacing Ed Siever with the Tigers down 4-0. He gave up a single run in four innings of work, but the game was already lost, and he was not used again. In 1908, the Tigers were locked in a tight pennant race with the Cleveland Naps and Chicago White Sox and Killian, who went 12-9 in 23 starts that year, was called upon to start one of the deciding games against the Sox in the season's last week-end. Facing Doc White in Chicago's South Side Park, he was uncharacteristically wild and gave up three runs on a single hit in the first inning, then kept his opponents hitless the rest of the way, but still lost 3-1. However, the Tigers clinched the pennant over the next two days and Killian started Game 1 of the ensuing World Series against the Cubs. This time, he was roughed up, giving up four runs before leaving in the third inning, and was saddled with the loss.

Killian was not in the best of health in 1909, but still had the signature moment of his career that year. An arm problem kept him out of action until May and limited him to 19 starts over the course of the year, but when he did pitch, he was very good. His ERA was a minute 1.71 and he won 11 games and pitched 3 shutouts. Late in the season, he was asked to start the first game of a doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox. He took a no-hitter into the 8th inning and won the game 5-0, then went back to the mound for the nightcap and won again, this time by a score of 8-3 to effectively clinch the pennant. It's not sure what exactly Jennings was thinking when he used a pitcher with a recent history of arm trouble for two complete games in one day, but the resulting fatigue may explain why Killian was reduced to the role of onlooker when Detroit faced the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. Ed Summers took his spot in the rotation in a move that was much criticized by reporters, and the Tigers lost their third consecutive World Series.

By 1910, Killian's career was on the downward slope. He lost his spot in the rotation in spring training, and was ineffective in the 11 games in which he appeared, going 4-3, 3.04 (that ERA was almost half a run over the league average in those days of the Deadball Era). He was sold to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Eastern League on August 1 and never appeared in the major leagues again. He pitched again in the minors in 1911 and 1912, spending time with Toronto, the Nashville Volunteers of the Southern Association, and the Buffalo Bisons of the International League, but his arm was spent by then and he was released early in 1912.

Ed Killian settled in Detroit, MI and worked as mechanic for the Ford Motor Company until he died from cancer in 1928. He was still beloved in Detroit at the time and Tigers owner Frank Navin paid his wife a generous pension when he died.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • AL Shutouts Leader (1905)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 2 (1905 & 1907)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 2 (1905 & 1907)
  • 25 Wins Seasons: 1 (1907)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 3 (1904, 1905 & 1907)
  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 3 (1904, 1905 & 1907)

[edit] Further Reading

  • Dan Holmes: "Edwin Henry Killian", in David Jones, ed.: Deadball Stars of the American League, SABR, Potomac Books, Inc., Dulles, VA, 2006, pp. 542-543.

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