EDITOR'S NOTE: Frequent BCB readers may recall that a few months ago I reviewed one of my favorite new baseball books, Chris Jensen's Baseball State by State. After reading the book I've asked Chris to join us for a 12-part series in 2013 on the best players born in Wisconsin. What follows is part 11 of that series. - KL
Ed Killian edged out a crowd of contenders to be named the all-time best lefty starter for Wisconsin in Baseball State by State, and he again outshines the competition to be recognized as the best November-born player from Wisconsin.
Racine native Killian (born November 12, 1876), who didn't debut in the majors until the age of 26, stood out with his 2.38 career ERA, which was also a function of the period he was pitching in (1903-10). The sinkerball specialist posted an outstanding 102-78 lifetime mark, which represents a winning percentage of .569. He won 20 games twice with his best season coming in 1907, when he went 25-13 with a 1.78 ERA and 29 complete games.
It was evidently too much work, as a sore-armed Killian was only able to provide four innings of relief during the World Series that year as the Tigers were swept by the Cubs. He did pitch 1,001 innings from late 1903 into 1907 without giving up a home run, which is impressive even when you consider it was the Deadball Era.
Nicknamed "Twilight Ed" for his ability to pitch deep in the game even if it went extra innings, Killian once started both games of a doubleheader late in the 1909 season, nearly hurling a no-hitter in the opener and earning complete game wins in both to all but clinch the pennant for the Tigers. However, a sore-armed Killian never left the bench as the Tigers lost the World Series for the third straight year.
Killian ended up recording 149 complete games in 180 career starts, leading the American League with eight shutouts to go with 23 wins in 1905. In 1906 he was part of a group of Detroit players who continually hazed precocious rookie Ty Cobb, and near the end of that season Killian was suspended after showing up drunk for a game.
Two other Wisconsin players with November birth dates deserve mention: Johnny Schmitz and George McBride. Schmitz (born November 27, 1920 in Wausau) ranked as the third-best lefty starter in Wisconsin history. He posted a 93-114 record with a 3.55 ERA and was named to two all-star teams during his 13-year career.
McBride (born November 20, 1880 in Milwaukee) debuted in the majors with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1901. He collected 1,203 hits during a 16-year career but batted just .218. That is the lowest career batting average for a player with at least 5,000 at bats. McBride was listed as the third-best shortstop in Wisconsin history in Baseball State by State.
Chris Jensen is the author of Baseball State by State: Major League and Negro League Players, Ballparks, Museums and Historical Sites, which was published in 2012 by McFarland. It features a chapter on each state covering state baseball history, an all-time team, stats leaders, historic baseball places to see, future stars, player nicknames and the state's all-time best player.