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Orville Kilroy

 

Date and Place of Birth: May 19, 1879 New Richmond, WI
Date and Place of Death:    October 9, 1918 Argonne Forest, France
Baseball Experience: Minor League
Position: Pitcher
Rank: Private First Class
Military Unit: Company A, 3rd Machine Gun Battalion, 1st Division AEF
Area Served: France

Orville Kilroy was an outstanding pitcher but bad luck seemed to follow him everywhere, even on the battlefields of France.

Orville P. Kilroy was born May 19, 1879 in New Richmond, Wisconsin. A quiet, unassuming and stockily built pitcher with great endurance, he would often pitch both ends of a doubleheader. Kilroy began his baseball career with the Waterloo Microbes of the Class D Iowa League, also playing with the Superior Longshoremen of the Class D Northern League and the St. Paul Saints of the Class A American Association.

In 1905, hurling for St. Paul and Kansas City of the American Association he lost 20 games while winning just 9, not helped by a run of bad luck as described by the Minneapolis Tribune:

"When a pitcher holds a team down to five hits, three of them scratches and is backed up by excellent support and still can't win out, it shows that the hoodoo is there stronger than onions. And that is what happened to Orville Kilroy yesterday for about 'steenth time since he has broken into the league. It is generally acknowledged around the circuit that ‘Kil’ is the hard luck pitcher of the league and for that reason yesterday's result cannot be called a surprise. Kilroy has carried rabbit feet (procured under most solemn conditions), has fought shy of all bad omens of the baseball world, never walks under a ladder standing against a building, never puts his bat in the bag upside down, and, in fact, does everything to keep the ill fates from disturbing him but all to no avail. The Jonah man has followed him so long that Kilroy has come to regard his presence as a matter of course, and did he possess less nerve would have thrown up the sponge long ago. But as it is, this sterling young pitcher plays the game all the time and for all that is in it, with the hope that luck will sometime come his way. And if it does, look out for him.

"Kilroy had the Colonels going in the one, two, three order until the sixth when one managed to get on a base. But it was in the last part of the ninth that the work was done. Danny Kerwin, the first man up, hit a fast one to Kilroy, which the latter touched and steered off in the direction of Marcan. Art got it, but Kerwin beat it out by a few inches. Suter Sullivan bunted along the first base line, Kilroy picked the ball up, but the throw hit Sullivan on the shoulder, the ball going to right field and Kerwin rounding up at third. With two on bases and nobody gone, Scott stepped up to the plate and smashed the second ball pitched against the center field fence, and it was all over."

In 1906, with the Minneapolis Millers of the same league, he was 12-12 and won 19 games for the Millers the following year although bad luck still appeared to be pursuing him. After earning both wins against Toledo in a July 14 double-header he got involved in a fight and had a knife pulled on him, injuring both hands.

However, he was just 2-8 with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Class A Eastern League in 1908, finishing the year with the Scranton Miners of the Class B New York State League. He was back with St. Paul in 1909 and raised his record to 14-10, followed by a 5-8 record the following year. In 1911, Kilroy headed to California to pitch for the Oakland Oaks of the Class A Pacific Coast League, compiling an 8-13 record and 2.66 ERA. In 1912, he played for Taft and the Bakersfield Drillers of the San Joaquin Valley League, played winter ball for K.T & O club of the West Side League in Bakersfield, and spent the 1913 season with the Valley League Bakersfield and Madera clubs.

Kilroy returned to the Pacific Coast League in 1914, hurling two games for Sacramento, his last season in organized baseball.

Living in Porterville, California, Kilroy was beyond draft age in 1917 but enlisted in the Machine Gun Company, 2nd Infantry, North Dakota National Guard, at Dickinson, North Dakota, on July 14, 1917. On December 15, 1917, he sailed for Europe and was assigned to Company A, 3rd Machine Gun Battalion of the 1st Division on January 15, 1918. He was involved in fierce fighting against German forces in France at Montdidier-Noyon, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, Ansauville, Saizerais and Cantigny. He was badly wounded in June1918 but insisted on returning to his machine gun unit. Private First Class Kilroy was killed in action at Argonne Forest on October 9, 1918.

Kilroy was twice cited in General Orders: (General Orders No. 94, Headquarters, 1st Division, AEF, Germany, Dec. 13, 1918) Although sick, he insisted upon staying with his company and was mortally wounded while faithfully and courageously performing his duty. (General Orders No. 1, Headquarters, 1st Division, Camp Zachary Taylor, Ky., Jan. 1, 1920) For gallantry in action and especially meritorious services. Entitled to wear two silver stars.

Originally buried in France, his remains were returned to the United States in 1921 and buried at St. Anne’s Cemetery in Porterville, California.

Sources
Bakersfield Californian, Dec 3, 1912, Dec 3, 1918
Bakersfield Morning Echo, Jan 8, 1913, March 29, 1913
Chicago Star, Aug 15, 1907
Des Moines Daily News, Dec 10, 1918
Milwaukee Sentinel, Dec 9, 1918
Pocahontas County Sun, June 10, 1909
Waterloo Daily Reporter, Aug 23, 1905
Waterloo Evening Courier, Aug 26, 1910

Date Added June 10, 2012

 

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