“Matt Simply Wasn’t to be Toyed With”

15 Jan

“Matt simply wasn’t to be toyed with.”

William Wrothe Aulick of pitcher Matt Kilroy in The New York Mail in 1911.

Kilroy pitched from 1886 to 1898 for six clubs and his pick off move—now illegal—taking a step forward towards the plate and throwing underhand to first, was said to be the game’s best.

Matt Kilroy

“Matt was a left hander who added to the fame and games of the Louisville team many years ago. There was a prize hung up every game by the Louisville manager to be freely given to the player who succeeded in taking more than two steps off the bag while Kilroy was pitching.”

Aulick said, “nobody ever won the Louisville manager’s prize for defying Matt Kilroy.”

Kilroy’s best seasons were not in Louisville; he won 121 of his 141 major league games with the Baltimore Orioles in the American Association from 1886 to1889; he was 3-7 in just 13 games with the Colonels in 1893 and 1894.

Aulick said:

“Sometimes there would happen along a stranger player who didn’t know about Matt’s peculiar objection to base stealing. With Kilroy’s windup, Mr. Mark would move one step off the base. With Kilroy’s backward shift of his feet, preparatory for delivery, Mr. Mark would scoot two feet off first and look hopefully at second—and then zing! Mr. Player was caught…After awhile the other fellows grew wary and Matt had to work to keep in practice at his specialty. When you’ve been caught dead to rights every time you’ve tried to take even a most modest lead, you require caution.”

Kilroy, a Philadelphia native was close with Connie Mack, after he retired, The Philadelphia Inquirer said, “For several seasons, nearly every morning, Kilroy was out at the park teaching Mack’s pitchers how to hold the runner on first. Those who profited from his coaching in that line were (Eddie) Plank, (Chief) Bender, and (Jack) Coombs.”

When Lefty Grove walked 131 batters in 197 innings as a 25-year-old rookie in 1925, The Philadelphia Bulletin asked Kilroy to diagnose the problem:

“It comes from one source which he can correct easily. He doesn’t follow his pitch through. When he brings that long arm of his over his head, he doesn’t complete his pitch, but gets the ball away too quick. That makes him wild. But he’ll overcome that. When he does, he’ll be a corker.”

Kilroy operated a tavern adjacent to Shibe Park—he sold it in 1939 and it became the Deep Right Field Cafe. Kilroy died in 1940.

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