Right-hander Ellis Kinder was the epitome of the late bloomer. He didn’t sign a professional contract until he was 23 years old and made his major league debut for the St. Louis Browns in 1946, just three months shy of his 32nd birthday.
Kinder came to Boston in November 1947, acquired with infielder Billy Hitchcock from the Browns in exchange for Sam Dente, Clem Dreisewerd, Bill Sommers and $65,000. He almost immediately clashed with veteran manager Joe McCarthy.
McCarthy wasn’t fond of Kinder’s extracurricular activities, per the Society for American Baseball Research, but learned to put up with the right-hander when he found that despite the carousing, Kinder showed up every day ready to pitch.
Teammate Mickey McDermott recalled, “[McCarthy] never asked Kinder what he’d done the night before. He always knew where Kinder was — in bed with a bottle and a blonde.”
Kinder hurt his arm late in spring training in 1948 and was limited to 28 appearances, but pitched well.
In 1949, Kinder broke out in a big way, going 23-6 in 30 starts and 13 relief appearances, leading the American League with a .793 winning percentage and six shutouts, while finishing fifth in the MVP voting.
After another season spent in dual roles, Kinder moved almost exclusively to the bullpen in 1951 and became one of the early prototypes of the modern closer, finishing 41 games and would have led the AL with 16 saves had the stat been official.
In 1953, Kinder finished 51 games and would have logged 27 saves, both tops in the league. He finished a league-best 38 game in 1955, at the age of 40, but was waived in December and claimed by the St. Louis Cardinals.
In eight seasons with the Red Sox, Kinder was 86-52 in 365 games, starting 89, with a 3.28 ERA and 1.303 WHIP in 1,142.1 innings, striking out 557. His ERA+ was a sterling 135.
Kinder split the 1956 season between the Cardinals and Chicago White Sox as a reliever and made one appearance in 1957 for Chicago before he was released in May.
In retirement, Kinder returned to his native Mississippi, working as a carpenter, roofer and doing other home-improvement jobs. He underwent open-heart surgery in the fall of 1968 and recovered for a spell before he died on Oct. 16, 1968 at the age of 54.