Edwin Henry Killian, known in the baseball world as “Twilight Ed” was born on November 12, 1876 in Racine, Wisconsin. His German immigrant parents were Andrew Killian and the former Etta Harliss.
Ed was a pitcher for the Racine Baseball Club in the late nineteenth century and the early 1900’s. It was a time when baseball was booming across the country; the State of Wisconsin and Racine were no exception. In fact, many Wisconsin natives joined the American League during and after its inaugural season of 1901.
In 1902, Ed began professional play with Rockford, part of the Indiana-Illinois-Iowa League. Rockford won the league championship by edging out Terre Haute. Ed finished the season seventh in the league for pitchers, with a .583 winning percentage. He began the 1903 season with Rockford, and finished in Cleveland.
Killian was already 26 years old when he made his major league debut on August 25, 1903 with Cleveland of the American League. In nine games started, Ed posted a 3 win 4 loss record, with an impressive 2.48 ERA. His pitching teammate Hall of Famer Addie Joss was a very well known Wisconsin native that also wore a Racine uniform, at least for one game.
The following year Killian joined the Detroit Tigers. He was traded to the Tigers along with Jesse Stovall for Billy Lush. On May 11, Killian faced the all time great Cy Young in one of the best pitching duals ever. The two battled each other in 14 scoreless innings, until the Red Sox managed a run in the 15th to win 1 to 0. He earned his nickname “Twilight Ed” for his ability to go beyond 9 innings and into early darkness.
At the end of September Killian returned to Racine. Ed suited up once again in his familiar Racine jersey, in a highly anticipated game against the neighboring rival, Kenosha.
The Kenosha club brought in the Chicago White Sox pitcher, current Hall of Fame member “Big” Ed Walsh, to face Killian. The hard throwing Walsh stuck out 17 Racine batters, but was inconsistent giving up six runs. Killian, coasted through the first five innings before giving up a pair of runs in the sixth, and an additional run in the eighth. Racine won the contest 6 to 3.
The following morning it was back to Detroit to finish off the season. In his first full season, he recorded 15 wins and 20 losses with an ERA of 2.44. It was his last year with losses totaling more than wins. Detroit finished in a disappointing seventh place.
After the season of 1904 finished in Detroit, the hometown hero returned to Racine. Another game against Kenosha was scheduled, this time it was played in front of many admiring Killian fans, at Racine’s Athletic Park.
For the big event, Killian was added to Racine’s every day line up. Kenosha on the other hand went out and brought in four players to add to their roster. Pitcher Chick Frazier was brought in from the Philadelphia Phillies, Otto Krueger of the Pittsburg Pirates played shortstop, Helts a second baseman from Milwaukee of the American Association and first baseman Dillion of the Texas League. In a close contest, the visitors prevailed, winning the match by the score of 2 to 0. Both of Kenosha’s runs were scored in the eighth inning.
In 1905, the Tigers climbed to 3rd place; Killian led the pitching staff with 23 wins and 14 losses, which was the third best win total in the American League. He led the American league with 8 shutouts and had a 2.27 ERA. An outfield rookie from the south joined the club named Ty Cobb. It has been noted that Ed participated with other veterans on the team, playing practical jokes on the testy Georgian.
1906 was a struggle for Killian and the Tigers. Instead of continuing in an upward direction, the team dropped down to sixth place. Ed’s record dropped to 10 and 6, and his ERA was his career low at 3.43. One bright side of the season was adding another outfielder, the speedy Cambria, Wisconsin native Davy Jones.
At the height of his career, Killian chalked up a career high 25 wins in 1907, his ERA dropped to an amazing 1.78. In August, Twilight Ed gave up a home run; it was his first since September of 1903. He went an incredible 1001 innings without giving up a single home run.
The Detroit Tigers won their won their first American League championship. Ed pitched and won both games of a double header to clinch the pennant by 1.5 games over Connie Mack’s second place Athletics. Unfortunately, Ed’s arm needed rest going into the World Series versus the Chicago Cubs; he only appeared in relief for four innings in game 3. With the Cubs winning 4 to 0 when he entered the game, Ed gave up one run and the Cubs went on to win 5 to 1. The Cubs became world champions two days later.
Many consider 1908 as the most exciting season ever. Detroit clinched their second straight American League Championship by beating the White Sox the final day of the season in Chicago. In the National League, the Cubs had to play a tie breaking game with the Giants, to advance. It would be another rematch of the previous year.
Ed’s numbers were down, after pitching over 300 innings in three out of four previous seasons, he threw in 180 innings. His record was 12 wins and 9 losses, with a 2.99 ERA. He pitched in 2.1 innings in game one of the World Series, in a game the Tigers lost 10 to 6. The Cubs became the first team to win back-to-back World Championships, beating the Tigers four games to one. In his last full season Killian went 11 wins and 9 losses with an outstanding career low 1.71 ERA. He sat out the World Series, as the Tigers lost for the third year in a row. The 1909 fall classic highlighted two of the greatest players in baseball history, Ty Cobb of Detroit and Honus Wagner of Pittsburgh. It took Pittsburgh seven games to capture the crown.
After four wins and three losses, with an ERA of 3.04, Ed played his last game with the Tigers on July 15, 1910. He finished with an amazing career 2.38 ERA, which is the 24th best ever. He holds the record for fewest home runs given up, averaging one every 178 innings. The Tigers owner Frank Navin called Killian the best left-handed pitcher to ever wear a Detroit uniform.
He finished the 1910 season in Toronto and part of 1911 before joining the Nashville team. In 1912, he briefly played with the Buffalo Bison’s, before returning to play semi-pro ball in Detroit.
Ed spent the remaining years of his life living in Detroit with his wife. He worked at the Ford Motor Company up until his death. He passed away at his home on July 18, 1928 from cancer at the age of 51.
Written by: David Stalker
© 2010 Racine Heritage Museum – The Outlook Newsletter