June 2023 | Obituary

A tribute to former FCCJ member and Alleycats stalwart Pat Killen, who has died age 93

Pat Killen with his wife, Miyoko, and their daughter Kimberly

Patrick J. Killen, a Lifetime Member of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, died this month at the age of 93. Pat was likely not an early pick to embody changes in journalism over the last century, but became a living bridge from its analogue past to digital present, who recognized that regardless of modern tools, nothing matters more than a good story – or joke – well told. Hopefully, here’s his.

Our hero was born in 1929 in Carbondale, Illinois, and then moved to Los Angeles. Attending Santa Monica High School, he lived with the family that owned Dick’s Sporting Goods, who treated him like a son. Pat went to Colorado College, played football, and was a strapping young lad, according to his own versions of youth (I would tease by asking if teams played without helmets then). After naval service during the Korean War that brought him to Japan for the first time, Pat went to UCLA to study a Masters in Journalism. He then worked for United Press and UPI for 30 years in South Asia and Southeast Asia, later joined the Yomiuri Shimbun, and became editor of this publication. In his finest moments, he married Miyoko in Japan, and became father to Kimberly. Separately, he also managed the Press Club softball team for decades, which is how I met him. 

His career began when competing newspapers were delivered two or three times a day, foreign correspondents waited for feed times or telephone transcriptions, and overseas journalists were often pseudo-ambassadors or spies. In the last year of his life, Pat wrote and published the book Asia Ernie at 92, kept in touch with colleagues and friends around the world, including those at the FCCJ, and would reply in minutes with details of world events or a Cubs game.

Pat’s beats in no particular order were Pakistan and India, the Philippines, South Korea, and Japan. He covered wars and internal conflicts, the occasional “holy shit” story, and the wonder of making a huge world smaller. Many unpublishable tales from those days were often retold in the FCCJ bar with colleagues such as Dai Inoshita, Bruce Dunning, Jack Russell, Corky Alexander, and Charles Pomeroy. Thankfully walls can’t talk. However, as Number 1 Shimbun editor, he always featured “then and now” content reflecting the FCCJ’s changing demographics, and also his inclusive way of dealing with people and their stories.

I first met Pat in 1989 on joining the Alleycats, when there were few journalists playing besides Glenn Davis, Roger Schreffler, Bruce Rutledge, Andy Adams, the Faas brothers, Hiro Morita, and David Cady. However, FCCJ staff and their families, including “The Jimmys” – Horikawa and Semoto, Hiroshi Hosono, Fumio Okuda and his son Tatsu, and “Mr Triple” Kubo graced our teams. Kantoku Killen gave everyone playing time, which lifted a group of good athletes to become great friends. Later, we won two titles against superior foes, as Pat pulled the strings to recruit talent.

This April, team members including Mike Cline, Jim Clark, Kurt Kafentzis, the Faas Brothers, Andy Wiedlin, and friends joined Pat and Kimberly for “Patapalooza” in Las Vegas, in which tales from softball, embellished over years, were rehashed. Some who couldn’t attend sent video messages. Pat had faced some health issues , but put them aside to join us. For many, Patapalooza was a chance to express his impact on our lives while raising a glass and tell stories.

Pat relished sharing how, in one game, Andy Adams in right field was yelling so vehemently at teammates about their poor defense that he was oblivious to a ball flying over his head, as well as the infamous bases-loaded ground ball episode, which purportedly ended with at least three errors, including a ball thrown by an unnamed left fielder over the backstop, and all runs scoring in a Press Club loss. 

This anecdote perfectly sums up Pat’s attitude.

Mike and his brother Clint Faas were in a game in Austin, Minnesota, on a field with a rickety wooden outfield fence, not far from the Hormel Factory pig farm. Their team was down three runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but the bases were loaded after Mike walked. Fleet-footed Clint came up and hammered the first pitch to deep centerfield. At the same moment, a runaway boar from the farm shot through a hole in the outfield fence and darted straight for the rolling baseball, putting it firmly inside its jowls. The plucky pig then ran through another hole in the outfield fence, as all runners charged towards home plate. Umpire Patrick J. Killen now had to rule on this unprecedented moment in baseball. After brief reflection, he waved his finger to indicate all runs had scored, and that the game was over. His call: In-the-Pork Homerun.

With Pat, everyone who played always scored.

Friends and family will celebrate Pat's life on Saturday, June 24, 11 am-2 pm at Urban Rio Cantina & Grill, 1000 14th St #100, Plano, TX 75054 Please RSVP at this link even if you cannot attend:

Dan Sloan is a former president of the FCCJ, author, journalist, communications specialist, and - purportedly - the infamous left-fielder who threw the ball over the home plate backstop. He managed the Press Club Alleycats to two titles, and still plays for a remnant of Pat's team.