stats Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels


  This site         Tips

  The Web Google


  Where to Find It

Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business



Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store

Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business




  Arts & Entertainment



   Headline Index

 Other Sections

  Births & Deaths






  Facts & Arguments




  Real Estate









  Food & Dining




  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...


   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site



  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us



 Web Site

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


Known as The Killer, he was one of the few Canadians to play at baseball's highest level in the late 1960s
Special to The Globe and Mail

Email this article Print this article
Tuesday, July 17, 2018 – Page B17

In 1972, Mike Kilkenny became the answer to a trivia question by wearing the uniform of four different major-league baseball teams in a single season.

He began the 1972 campaign, his fourth, with the Detroit Tigers. On May 10, he was sold to the Oakland Athletics. Six days later, he was traded to the San Diego Padres. Less than a month later, after having pitched just four innings for his new employer, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians.

A beanpole, left-handed pitcher from a small town in Ontario, Mr. Kilkenny was one of only a handful of Canadians in the late 1960s to earn a roster spot at baseball's highest level. He was a baseball character, urging sports writers to call him by his nickname - The Killer - and asserting his hometown was so isolated and hockey-mad he only learned about the summer sport from baseball cards.

Mr. Kilkenny, who has died at the age of 73, was known for a wicked curveball, which he unfailingly executed with a delivery so smooth it was compared to a golf swing, another sport at which he excelled.

"It took me a long time to learn it's concentrated relaxation out there," he once said. "I was told to use a lesson I had learned in golf, namely pausing for a splitsecond at the top of my backswing. That pause injected a wealth of control."

The hurler's success at baseball was the more unlikely for the lack of coaching and opportunity he had as a young person. His high school did not field a team, so at the age of 15, he travelled on weekends to Toronto to pitch in sandlot games, where he caught the attention of scouts, notably former minor-league infielder Bob Prentice of Toronto, who worked for the Tigers. Detroit signed the young man for a reported $15,000 bonus.

Michael David Kilkenny was born in Bradford, now known as Bradford West Gwillimbury, on April 11, 1945, a second son for the former Gwendoline Madge (née Fowles) Ward and Keith Neilly Kilkenny. His mother, born in Runcorn, England, lost her father, a bombardier with the artillery, when he was killed in action in France in 1917. Her mother remarried and the family immigrated to Canada in 1922, when the girl was 9. She married into one of Bradford's best-known families in 1940. Two years earlier, the Kilkennys celebrated a centennial of operating such businesses as a furniture store and a funeral parlour in the town south of Lake Simcoe. She would be named Bradford's citizen of the year for her volunteer work in 1975.

After signing with the Tigers, the young pitcher added weight to his frame, which gave more zip to his fastball. He would later add a slider to his repertoire. He threw a no-hitter against the Tampa Tarpons in 1965 while pitching for the Daytona Beach Islanders of the Florida State League, a single-A circuit for prospects.

The lefty spent parts of three seasons in Alabama with the Montgomery Rebels of the Southern League. On a lark, he once left tickets at the box office for the governor, George Wallace, and his wife, and was astonished to see them in the stands.

After five seasons in the minors, Mr. Kilkenny made his major-league debut with a relief appearance for the Tigers on his 24th birthday. He had a more monumental day four months later. On Aug. 12, 1969, he rushed his wife, Carolyn, to the hospital, where she gave birth to a five-pound boy who arrived six weeks before his due date. At 4 p.m., the new father left the hospital just hours before he was scheduled to be on the mound at Tiger Stadium in his first major-league start.

"I sent my wife some roses," he told The New York Times later that day, "let the dog out - he hadn't been out all day - took a shower, grabbed a sandwich and came to the ball park."

As it turned out, he pitched a three-hit, complete-game victory, as Detroit defeated the California Angels, 7-1. The pitcher also recorded his first major-league base hit and run batted in with a single off Andy Messersmith in the fourth inning.

In the 1969 campaign, he threw a twohitter against Boston and a three-hitter with 13 strikeouts against Cleveland on his way to being named his team's rookie of the year.

In 1971, he suffered from an ulcer and mononucleosis, which was only diagnosed when he had a checkup before embarking on a goodwill tour of Vietnam with fellow players Dock Ellis, Bobby Bonds and Mike Hedlund. He was struck by the poverty of the civilians he saw, including naked children playing in a garbage dump, where he spotted live ammunition.

He retired from pro baseball after the 1973 season. In his major-league career, he pitched in 139 games with a 23-18 record and 301 strikeouts in 410 innings; he also had a 4.43 earned-run average.

He worked as a golf instructor, a golf pro at clubs in Ontario and operated a golf repair business, as well as serving as a swing coach for Ted Potter Jr., a two-time winner on the PGA Tour. Mr. Kilkenny was also a salesman for a chemical company. Over the years, he owned trotters used in harness racing.

He returned to baseball in 1975, pitching for the amateur London Majors, going 9-0 in the regular season and 5-0 in the playoffs as the team won the championship of what is now known as the Intercounty Baseball League. He was named the circuit's most valuable player.

Eight years later, he once again returned to the mound for the Majors, again going 9-0.

The Majors retired his No. 17 uniform in a ceremony in 2011. The next year, a baseball diamond in his hometown was named after him.

Mr. Kilkenny, a resident of Belmont, Ont., died of colorectal cancer in London, Ont., on June 28. He leaves his second wife, Edie (née Steinman), whom he married in 1984, as well as a son, a daughter, a stepson and eight grandchildren. He also leaves his older brother.

Among his eccentricities as a player was the fact that he always carried with him his current baseball card. In 1972, the cards issued by the Topps Chewing Gum Company in the United States and by O-Pee-Chee in Canada included a trivia question. The Kilkenny card asked which two pitchers threw for four different American League clubs in a single season. (The answer: Willis Hudlin in 1940 and Ted Gray in 1955.) The card was prepared before the start of the season. After he was traded to his fourth team, the pitcher pulled his bubble-gum card from his duffle bag to show reporters.

"This is so ironic I can't believe it," he said of the bizarre coincidence.

To submit an I Remember: Send us a memory of someone we have recently profiled on the Obituaries page.

Please include I Remember in the subject field

Associated Graphic

Mike Kilkenny, seen in 1970, retired from pro baseball after the 1973 season. In his major-league career, he pitched in 139 games with a 23-18 record and 301 strikeouts in 410 innings. He also had a 4.43 earned-run average.


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Paul_Sullivan Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.


7-Day Site Search

Breaking News

Today's Weather


Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes

Where Manley is going with his first budget



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
Margaret Wente arrow
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game

Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
Mathew Ingram arrow
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
Andrew Willis arrow

Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
Eric Duhatschek arrow
Allan Maki arrow
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
 The Arts

John Doyle arrow
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
Johanna Schneller arrow

Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
Paul Knox arrow
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
William Thorsell arrow

Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page