William “Bill” Killefer
Born: October 10, 1887 - Bloomingdale, MI
Died: July 3, 1960 - Elsmere, DE
Career BA: .238
Managerial Record: 524–622
St. Louis Browns AL (1909–1910; manager: 1930–1933)
Philadelphia Phillies NL (1911–1917)
Chicago Cubs NL (1918–1920; player-manager: 1921; manager: 1922–1925)
Several great batterymates have gained fame over the course of baseball history; Grove and Cochrane, Paige and Gibson, Ford and Berra, Carleton and McCarver. There are, of course, many more. Two that tend to be overlooked are Grover Cleveland Alexander “Old Pete” and Bill Killefer “Reindeer Bill.” Killefer was an outstanding catcher who caught Alexander 250 times. With cat-like reflexes and a powerful, accurate throwing arm, he was a skilled defensive catcher with a knack for calling a great game.
Coming up from Houston of the Texas League, Killefer made his debut with the St. Louis Browns in the American League, but was released after the 1910 season. He was dispatched to the Eastern League where, under the tutelage of his future brother-in-law George Stallings, he developed into a fine catcher. Once Killefer was established as a front line catcher, he would at one time or another lead the league in fielding percentage, assists, baserunners caught stealing, putouts and double plays. In a nutshell, Bill Killefer was one of the best at that position. Unfortunately, he is sometimes overlooked when discussing the real “greats” because of his weak batting skills. After many years as batterymates, Killefer and Alexander went over to the Cubs together in 1918. This proved to be the infusion that the Cubs needed to win the pennant, but they lost to the Red Sox in the World Series.
By 1921, injuries sustained over Killefer’s long career caught up with him, greatly reducing his playing time. Always popular with his teammates, cheers were heard in the clubhouse when Killefer was named manager of the Cubs late that season. He skippered the Cubs through 1925 with a 300–293 record. He then coached for the Cardinals and the Browns before managing the Browns from 1930 through 1933. He remained in baseball for many years, managing in the minors, coaching for the Dodgers and Phillies, and scouting for the Dodgers, Phillies and Indians. Killefer developed a reputation for mentoring young pitchers and catchers and, as a scout, was instrumental in signing Larry Doby, the first black player in the history of the American League. Between playing, managing, coaching and scouting, Bill Killefer enjoyed a remarkable 48-year run in baseball.
– Tom and Ellen Zappala, The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players. For more information on their book and/or to order a copy at a special PSA discount, visit http://crackerjackplayers.com/PSA_order.html