The Forgotten One: The Story of Ed Killian
As far as Detroit Tiger greats go, starting pitcher Ed Killian is a name that doesn't come to mind. But it should.
Edwin Henry Killian was born on Nov. 12, 1876 in Racine, WI. His dad, Andrew, was a wheelwright. His mom, Etta, was a German immigrant. As a kid, Ed was very strong and athletic. He found himself on semi-pro teams early in life. In 1902, at 26, he signed his first professional contract with Rockford of the Three-I League. By the end of the year, he was on the Cleveland Naps and was 3-4 with a 2.48 ERA in eight starts.
Killian had a typical build for major leaguers during his time, despite being considerably bigger than kids when he was one.
In the offseason of 1904, the Tigers acquired Killian and Jesse Stovall for outfielder Billy Lush. With the Tigers, Killian made an immediate impact. He won 14 games and posted a 2.44 ERA in 1904. The amazing thing to me is, he pitched 330 innings. And how many home runs did he yield? Not a single one.
He used his very good sinker to induce grounders. For that reason, he never was a power pitcher; he relied on finesse and the defense behind him.
Because of his lack of speed, he was able to be a workhorse. In a May start in 1904, he pitched 14 innings but was out dueled by Cy Young, 1-0. Killian earned the nickname "Twilight Ed" for this. Killian pitched lots and lots of extra inning games and won a lot of them.
He enjoyed a fine season in 1905, by winning 23 and losing 14, with a 2.27 earned run average. The Tigers, however, were just 79-74, good for third in the American League.
1906 was a huge disappointment. He was 10-6 but had a 3.43 ERA and got close to no run support. In an 11-1 loss to Jack Chesbro's Highlanders, he was PO'd about the amount of run support he was getting: usually none. Six days later, he showed up for practice drunk, tore apart jerseys and other equipment in the clubhouse and went home. He was tagged with a $200 fine.
It was quite typical of Killian. When things were going well, he was a lovable guy who was an asset. When things were going badly, he was a clubhouse cancer and a guy you wanted away from the team. In 1906, he set the trend for fighting between teammates. He locked a rookie by the name of Tyrus Cobb out of the showers, which infuriated the rookie.
In 1907, Killian had by far his best year. He won 25 games and posted a 1.78 earned run average in 314 innings of work. The only bad thing that happened was when the A's Sock Seybold hit a home run off him, the first long ball hit off Killian in 1,001 innings.
The Tigers went to the World Series but got crushed by the Chicago Cubs. After the series, however, Killian married Lottie McAzee, a Detroit flower girl. Killian's 1908 season wasn't bad, but definitely no repetition of 1907. He pitched in just 27 games, 14 fewer then in 1907. He had just 12 wins and a 2.99 ERA, more then a run higher then 1907.
The 1907 season clearly took a toll on his arm. After tossing 314 innings in 1907, he never again pitched 200 innings. He had a bittersweet season in 1909, though. He had 11 wins and nine losses. He was injured until late May and dominated. He had a 1.71 ERA and it was his last full season. He was 4-3 with a 3.04 ERA in 1910, his last year.
He retired in 1910 after being dropped from the Tigers rotation. In 1910 and 1911, he pitched for Toronto, going 2-6 before going to Nashville of the Southern Association. He didn't do much there, either.
He died in 1928 of cancer at the age of 51. In his career, he had 102 wins, 78 losses and a 2.38 ERA. In 1,598.1 innings, he allowed nine home runs!
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