We finish this list with a third straight pitcher and another who was a contemporary of Mel Parnell and Vern Stephens. Ellis Kinder spent the majority of his career, eight of his twelve seasons, with the Red Sox from 1948 to 1955, and was a successful starter and reliever in the mold of Dennis Eckersley, Derek Lowe, and John Smoltz before any of those men were even born.
Kinder’s best season as a starter was in 1949 when he went 23-6 with a 3.36 ERA and 138 strikeouts in 252 innings pitched. After Mel Parnell lost the first game against the Yankees in the final series of the season, Kinder got the start in the second. He had pitched great through the first seven innings and the Yankess only led 1-0, but Kinder was pinch-hit for and the Red Sox went on to lose the game and the pennant.
In 1951, Kinder was moved into the bullpen when the Red Sox were desperate for a closer and he shone there, becoming one of the best relievers in the American League through 1955. He saved 80 games for Boston over those five seasons, including a league-leading 16 in 1951 and 27 in 1953. For his Red Sox career, Kinder was 86-52 with a 3.10 ERA, 557 strikeouts, and 93 saves.
Kinder is a member of the Red Sox Hall of Fame, but like his rotation-mate Mel Parnell, has largely been underrated and unappreciated, his greatness lost to the mists of time. In an era when the Red Sox were mostly terrible, Ellis Kinder was the prototype for the starter/reliever pitcher we’ve seen so much of over the last 30-40 years and a very good one at that.