If you were going to launch a whole new baseball franchise, what better pitcher to hand the game ball to for the very first game than someone named Win? That’s just what Boston Americans manager Jimmy Collins did when he asked Win Kellum to start the April 26, 1901, ballgame in Baltimore, facing Iron Man Joe McGinnity.
The final score was Baltimore 10, Boston 6. In the process of pitching the game, Kellum registered a number of firsts. As a pitcher, he holds the first start and the first complete game (as well as the first loss) for the Bostons. He allowed the first hit (leadoff batter John McGraw doubled to right field in the bottom of the first inning); the first run (the second batter up, Turkey Mike Donlin, followed McGraw’s double with a triple to right); and the first base on balls (Kellum walked Jimmy Williams, the third batter up in the first inning). He also record the first out – being a strikeout of Cy Seymour, it was also the first K. At bat, he collected the first hit by a Boston Americans pitcher, a scratch single in the eighth, and was the first pitcher lifted for a pinch-hitter (fellow Canadian Larry McLean, in the ninth, who doubled).
It wasn’t the first game Kellum had pitched in a Boston uniform. On April 11, in Charlottesville, Virginia – the team’s first spring-training home – he and two others held the University of Virginia baseball team to seven hits in a 23-0 slaughter. It was the second (and last) exhibition game of the training season.
Winford Ansley Kellum was born in Waterford, Ontario, on April 11, 1876. His family had mixed American and Canadian ancestry and at the time of the 1900 United States Census, Win was living in Grant Township, Mecosta County, Michigan, with his parents, Newton H. Kellum and Catherine Kellum, and his wife, Nanette. Newton was a farmer and Winford was listed as a farmer laborer. Newton’s father was Pennsylvanian and his mother was a Canadian native, as were he, Catherine, and Win. Catherine’s parents were both New Yorkers. Nanette was born in Ohio, to Ohio natives. The 1910 and 1920 censuses show that Newton continued farming; both censuses used the nickname Cassie for Mrs. Kellum. The 1910 Census showed Winford as a baseball player. He did become a United States citizen—witness his World War I draft registration form.
He’d been sued for divorce in May 1907, his wife alleging that “while traveling with the baseball teams Kellum was unfaithful.”1 By 1910, Win had a different wife, whose name was reported differently in each succeeding census, but who appears to have been Frederika Ovidia M. Anderson Kellum. She had been born in Michigan to parents who were natives of Denmark. She was a public-school teacher, and had give birth to their daughter Winifred in 1908 and son, Edward Ford Kellum, in August 1909.
Win pitched for the Montgomery Grays beginning in 1895, according to his obituary in The Sporting News. The first newspaper clipping we find shows Kellum playing baseball on April 23, 1896, when the left-hander started and won a game for the Grays, beating the Atlanta Crackers, 8-1. “Kellum’s Curves Too Much” was the subhead in the April 24 Atlanta Constitution. He struck out eight and was 1-for-4 (a double) in the game. He threw a four-hitter against New Orleans on the 27th and a one-hitter on May 1 against the Mobile Blackbirds. He hit a two-base hit in each of those games, too. There weren’t that many times opponents scored against him. He was 21-5 in Southern Association play, and his 1.33 earned-run average led the league. The league started to break up in midyear and Kellum finished up elsewhere. In late September, he pitched in the final game of the year for the Indianapolis Indians of Ban Johnson’s Western League.
Kellum was one of three pitchers used in the no-mercy-rule 41-0 defeat of Depauw in early April 1897, as Indianapolis prepared for regular-season Western League play. He was listed as 5-feet-10 and 190 pounds. He was a switch-hitter, but a southpaw on the mound. Tracing his steps as best we can, he pitched a full season in 1898 for Ohio’s Mansfield Haymakers (Inter-state League, a Class B team). The August 12 game against the visiting Springfield Governors ended due to darkness in a 1-1 tie, with Kellum going the distance for Mansfield.
In 1899 he was back with the Hoosiers, and shut out Columbus on May 2. Indianapolis won the Western League pennant by one game over Minneapolis, a bit of a thrilling race that must have pleased league president Ban Johnson. It was sometimes a wild and woolly league; the June 11 game in the Indiana capital ended in a near-riot when 2,000 fans chased umpire Manassau from the field, protesting his decision that would have given St. Paul a victory. “There were a thousand too many umpires,” he said after police arrived on bicycles to quell the disturbance.2 Kellum’s record was 14-11; he won the third and final game of a playoff against Minneapolis in late September. It was during this Western League play that Kellum came to know Charles Comiskey. The two long enjoyed fishing together, a fact mentioned in Kellum’s obituary in the New York Times.
In 1900, Johnson reconstituted the Western League as the American League, which played a full season. Manager Bill Watkins was at the helm again for Indianapolis, and Kellum was his left-hander, throwing a no-hitter on June 16 against the Chicago White Sox. Chicago won the pennant; the Hoosiers finished third, Kellum winning the last game of the season, 4-1, over the Kansas City Blues, a five-hitter.
As Johnson developed the new American League, truly taking on the reigning National League head-to-head, he helped teams sign up such players as they could and Win Kellum wound up with the Boston Americans. Confusion reigned, and there was a lot of jockeying. A news report on April 2 said that Boston’s National League team had secured Kellum from Indianapolis; another report the same day noted his expected arrival with the Americans in Charlottesville. The next day’s Chicago Tribune noted Kellum as one of the absentees from the Americans’ camp (along with one Cy Young). He turned up in time to pitch in the above-mentioned April 12 exhibition game. By the time the club broke camp, Collins was said to be “especially pleased” with Kellum’s performance.3 Hence, presumably, Collins’s decision to assign him the first start. Ten runs on 11 hits and four walks did not augur well for the start of the season. Kellum’s second start was worse: May Day in Philadelphia saw the Athletics pound him for 14 runs on 19 hits. But then he threw a four-hitter against Washington on May 7 and collected his first win.
Kellum started well but faded after the fifth when he faced Washington again on the 13th of the month.
On May 25, the Americans released Kellum and outfielder Charlie Jones. “We had too many players on our list,” said Collins. “We decided we might as well let two men out now as later. Neither has showed up very well. I don’t know what is the matter with Kellum. He is touted as a good pitcher, but the four games he pitched for us showed that he would not do in his present form.”4
Quickly enough, within a week, Kellum was recalled on June 1 and Ben Beville released. Kellum had his next start on June 10, which he won, 7-3, over Milwaukee. His final game for Boston was on June 14, when he was knocked out of the box during a four-run fifth, Cy Young coming on and getting the 16-7 win in relief, thanks to a nine-run Boston bottom of the eighth. Win was released again. His first-year major-league record was 2-3, with a 6.38 earned in average in 48 innings of work.
Win picked up some work in Massachusetts, pitching for the Attleboro team (to batterymate Jack Slattery, who joined the Americans later in the season). His game against North Attleboro was the “finest ever seen on the local grounds,” according to the July 14 Boston Globe. As soon as Attleboro won the season series from its rivals to the north, Kellum headed south and racked up a 10-2 record pitching for the New Orleans Pelicans. Before December was out, he’d signed up again with Bill Watkins in Indianapolis. His 25-10 season helped win the 1902 American Association flag, and he won 23 games against 10 defeats in 1903, though the team finished fourth. In early August, the Cincinnati Reds had all but completed a deal to sign Kellum for the 1904 campaign.5
Kellum had a very good year in 1904, with an ERA of 2.60 and 15 wins against 10 losses. The Cincinnati Post ran a series on what the players were doing over the winter, and noted Kellum as a bookworm, and always buried himself in a book when he was off the field – “anything from Dumas’s works to Diamond Dan, The Daring Desperado of Dead Gulch.”6
The Reds had three other pitchers with 15 or more wins, however, and Kellum ended up being sold to St. Louis on January 25, 1905. Word had been that he was going to Philadelphia but league president Garry Herrmann assigned his contract to the Cardinals.
Kellum didn’t have that good a year in 1905, though he kept his ERA to 2.92 (better than the team’s 3.59). He won three, including a 14-inning 3-2 complete game victory on May 20 in Boston, and lost three in 11 appearances (seven starts, the last coming on June 16). This left him with a major-league record of 20-16 and a 3.19 earned run average. Within the week after the 16th, the Toledo Mud Hens had purchased his contract from St. Louis, but four days later Toledo sold him to Minneapolis. He was 10-9 the rest of the year.
Where did Win go in 1906? Back to Bill Watkins in Indianapolis. He pitched two more seasons there, 16-19 and 15-16, for a last-place team the first year and a sixth-place team in 1907. Watkins himself didn’t make it through the team’s poor 1906 season, however, being replaced by Charles Carr as manager. Kellum wasn’t out, though, and there were those who were watching. John T. Brush of the New York Giants had his eyes on the American Association pitcher at midseason.7 Kellum finished out both ’06 and ’07 with Indianapolis, and was then traded to Newark of the Eastern League on December 30, 1907, for Bill Carrick, who’d insisted on pitching for independent teams on his offdays and thus found himself unwelcome with the Newark club. It’s not as though Kellum was a choir boy, either. He was under suspension at the time for “indifferent work.”8
By the time the 1908 season began, the trade had been called off, on second thought, and instead Kellum was traded to the Nashville Vols on March 14 for “Buttons” Briggs.
The Southern League team had finished last in 1907 but was first in 1908, and Win won 15 games against nine losses. An amusing headline in the Atlanta Constitution highlighted one of the wins: “Kellum Heaved Like Porpoise. He Groaned and Grunted but Beat Us Out.” And Kellum’s ninth-inning single broke the 4-4 tie in Nashville’s favor.9 He had arm troubles in 1909, leaving the team in early August to get some rest. He finished up well enough, though, and posted an even 8-8 record, disappointing with the team just 5½ games behind the Crackers for the pennant. Kellum was not invited back for 1910 and his playing days were over.
Kellum wasn’t finished with baseball, though. Starting in 1911, he umpired in the Southern League, and even wrote an article in the January 13, 1913, Atlanta Constitution about the “toughest decision I ever made.” In 1914, he made a few headlines when manager Bill Smith of the Crackers took a swipe at umpire Kellum. Smith got himself suspended. Kellum was not rehired for the 1915 season.
Farming wasn’t as profitable as Kellum would have liked, and a 1925 letter from him to NL president August Herrmann in the Hall of Fame files shows Kellum asking for any recommendation Herrmann might offer, even as a college coach or scout. “I am not as young as when I pitched for you,” he wrote, “but neither am I dissipated or fat.” He added that he had run a club in Michigan in 1924. He’d written on the stationery of Pleasant View Farm in Big Rapids, where he was raising cattle and doing general farming. In 1930, Win was a garage serviceman working with automobiles.
In May 1951, Kellum joined 30 ballplayers from the 1901 season in 50th-anniversary celebrations in Boston, including old teammates Cy Young, Fred Mitchell, Charles Hemphill, and Harry Gleason. Three months later, he was dead, of a heart attack while fishing with his son Ford, a conservation officer. Bill Lee’s Baseball Necrology says he was dead on arrival at Community Hospital at Big Rapids on August 10, 1951. Lee’s book also says Kellum had pitched a minor-league game at the age of 55.
This biography can be found in “New Century, New Team: The 1901 Boston Americans” (SABR, 2013), edited by Bill Nowlin. To order the book, click here.
In addition to the sources cited in this biography, the author consulted the online SABR Encyclopedia, retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com.
1 Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 14, 1907.
2 Chicago Tribune, June 12, 1899.
3 Washington Post, April 23, 1901.
4 Boston Globe, May 26, 1901.
5 Washington Post, August 5, 1903.
6 Cincinnati Post, December 3, 1904.
7 Washington Post, July 11, 1906.
8 Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 30, 1907.
9 Atlanta Constitution, July 23, 1908.