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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bill Killefer
Reindeer Bill Killefer, Philadelphia Phillies, Library of Congress photograph
Catcher / Manager
Born: (1887-10-10)October 10, 1887
Bloomingdale, Michigan, U.S.
Died: July 3, 1960(1960-07-03) (aged 72)
Elsmere, Delaware, U.S.
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 13, 1909, for the St. Louis Browns
Last MLB appearance
October 1, 1921, for the Chicago Cubs
MLB statistics
Batting average.238
Home runs4
Runs batted in240
Managerial record524–622
Winning %.457
As player

As manager

As coach

William Lavier Killefer (October 10, 1887 – July 3, 1960), nicknamed "Reindeer Bill", was an American professional baseball player, coach and manager. He played in Major League Baseball as a catcher from 1909 to 1921 for the St. Louis Browns, Philadelphia Phillies, and Chicago Cubs.[1][2] Killefer, who was nicknamed "Reindeer Bill" due to his speed afoot, is notable for being the favorite catcher of Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander and, for being one of the top defensive catchers of his era.[1][3] After his playing career, he continued to work as a coach and a manager for a Major League Baseball career that spanned a total of 48 years.

Major League career

Killefer made his major league debut at the age of 21 with the St. Louis Browns on September 13, 1909.[2] After the 1910 season in which the Browns finished in last place, Killefer was released to the Buffalo Bisons of the Eastern League.[1] Under the tutelage of Bisons' manager George Stallings, Killefer developed into a refined catcher.[1]

His contract was purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies on August 19, 1911, and he played his first game as a starter on October 3.[1] The Phillies pitcher on that day was Grover Cleveland Alexander, and the game marked the first of 250 times the pair teamed up as a battery in the major leagues.[1] Although he was a light hitter, Killefer became known for his strong defensive skills.[1] In 1913, he led National League catchers with 166 assists, 130 baserunners caught stealing, a 50.6% caught stealing percentage, and finished second in putouts and fielding percentage.[4]

In 1914, Killefer made news when it was reported that he had signed with the Chicago Whales of the Federal League, although he denied the report.[1] When the Phillies offered him a salary increase, he decided to sign with the Phillies, which led the Federal League to file a lawsuit against him and the Phillies.[1] A judge ruled against the Federal League and Killefer remained with the Phillies.[1]

From 1915 to 1917, Alexander and Killefer solidified their reputation as the best battery in baseball, with Alexander posting three consecutive 30-win seasons.[1][5] Killefer had one of his best seasons for the Phillies in 1917. He led National League catchers with a .984 fielding percentage, as well as in putouts, double plays, and total chances.[6] He also had one of his best seasons offensively with a .274 batting average.[2]

After the 1917 season, in one of the most lopsided trades in major league history, the financially strapped Phillies sent Killefer and Alexander to the Chicago Cubs for two players and $55,000 in cash.[1][7] With the Cubs, Killefer was credited with strengthening their pitching staff.[8] The Cubs won the 1918 National League pennant before losing to the Boston Red Sox in the 1918 World Series.[9] Killefer had another strong season in 1919, hitting a career-high .286 batting average and leading National League catchers in fielding percentage, putouts and assists.[2][10] He served as player-manager for the Cubs in 1921 before retiring as a player at age 33.

Career statistics

In a thirteen-year major league career, Killefer played in 1,035 games, accumulating 751 hits in 3,150 at bats for a .238 career batting average along with 4 home runs and 240 runs batted in.[2] He had a career fielding percentage of .977.[2] While he was not a powerful hitter, he possessed a strong throwing arm and a talent for working with pitchers.[8] Killefer led National League catchers in fielding percentage four consecutive seasons from 1916 to 1919.[2][11] He also led the league three times in putouts, assists and in baserunners caught stealing.[2] Killefer caught 115 shutouts in his career, ranking him 16th all-time among major league catchers.[12]

Killefer's reputation as a defensive standout is enhanced because of the era in which he played. In the Deadball Era, catchers played a huge defensive role, given the large number of bunts and stolen base attempts, as well as the difficulty of handling the spitball pitchers who dominated pitching staffs.[13] Richard Kendall of the Society for American Baseball Research devised an unscientific study that ranked Killefer as the most dominating fielding catcher in major league history.[14]

Managing and coaching career

After his playing career ended, Killefer continued as manager of the Cubs until he was fired after 75 games in 1925.[1] He was hired by St. Louis Cardinals manager Rogers Hornsby as a coach for the 1926 season.[1] The Cardinals went on to win the 1926 World Series with Killefer receiving credit for his help with the pitching staff.[1] In 1927, he was hired by the St. Louis Browns as a coach, and became their manager in 1930.[15] Killefer enjoyed little success as the Browns' manager, never finishing above fifth place as the depression-era team had cut its payroll significantly.[1] He was fired in 1933 and took two years off from organised baseball.[1]

Killefer accepted a role as manager for the Sacramento Solons in the Pacific Coast League, leading them to a first-place finish in 1937.[1] He later coached for the Brooklyn Dodgers and managed the minor league Milwaukee Brewers.[1] His managerial record was 524–622 (.457) in nine seasons.[15] Killefer's last on-the-field position in the major leagues was as a coach for the 1942 Philadelphia Phillies.[1] He also served as a scout for the Cleveland Indians, the Phillies and the Dodgers.[16] As a scout for the Indians, Killefer was involved in the signing of Larry Doby in 1947 (the American League's first black player).[1] Killefer was credited with helping the development of such catching standouts as Bob O'Farrell, Gabby Hartnett, Rick Ferrell, and Walker Cooper.[1]

He died in Elsmere, Delaware, at age 72.[16] His brother, Red Killefer, was also a major league baseball player. Political economist Nancy Killefer is a granddaughter.

Managerial record

Team Year Regular season Postseason
Games Won Lost Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
CHC 1921 57 23 34 .404 7th in NL
CHC 1922 154 80 74 .519 5th in NL
CHC 1923 154 83 71 .539 4th in NL
CHC 1924 153 81 72 .529 5th in NL
CHC 1925 75 33 42 .440 fired
CHC total 593 300 293 .506 0 0
SLB 1930 154 64 90 .416 6th in AL
SLB 1931 154 63 91 .409 5th in AL
SLB 1932 154 63 91 .409 6th in AL
SLB 1933 91 34 57 .374 fired
SLB total 553 224 329 .405 0 0
Total 1146 524 622 .457 0 0

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Weatherby, Charlie. "The Baseball Biography Project: Bill Killefer". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Bill Killefer Stats -".
  3. ^ Deadball stars of the National League, Thomas P. Simon, Brassey's, 2004 ISBN 1-57488-860-9 ISBN 978-1-57488-860-7
  4. ^ "1913 National League Fielding Leaders -".
  5. ^ "Pete Alexander Stats -".
  6. ^ "1917 National League Fielding Leaders -".
  7. ^ "Baseball Digest, October 1987, Vol. 46, No. 10, ISSN 0005-609X".
  8. ^ a b Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox, Allan Wood, iUniverse, 2000 ISBN 0-595-14826-3 ISBN 978-0-595-14826-4
  9. ^ "1918 World Series - Boston Red Sox over Chicago Cubs (4-2) -".
  10. ^ "1919 National League Fielding Leaders -".
  11. ^ "Baseball Digest, July 2001, Vol. 60, No. 7, ISSN 0005-609X".[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "The Encyclopedia of Catchers - Trivia December 2010 - Career Shutouts Caught". The Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  13. ^ "For Catchers, The Name of the Game is Defense, by George Vass, Baseball Digest, May 2005, Vol. 64, No. 3, ISSN 0005-609X".[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ "Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers - Dominating Catchers".
  15. ^ a b "Bill Killefer Managerial Record -".
  16. ^ a b " :: Bill Killefer's Obit".

External links

This page was last edited on 1 April 2024, at 15:38
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