Given Name: Michael Joseph
OF-C 1878-93 Reds, Cubs , Braves, Boston
Manager in 1890-91 Boston , Cincinnati-Milwaukee
- Led League in ba 84, 86
- Hall Of Fame in 1945
Kelly, who played every position, was one of the greatest players of his era. Beginning
his career with the Reds in 1878, he soon was given the title King of Baseball, and
became the number one idol of the nation. Joining Chicago in 1880, Kelly sparked
Cap Anson's team to five NL titles. He performed on eight pennant winners in 16 seasons
and hit .300 or better eight times. His .354 in 1884 and .388 in 1886 led the NL.
He led the league three times each in doubles and runs scored, and he is one of ten
NL players to have scored a league-record six runs in one game. Kelly won renown
for his daring baserunning, stealing at least 50 bases for four successive years,
with a high of 84 for the Braves in 1887. He once stole six bases in one game. His
sensational baserunning and sliding led fans to cheer him on, yelling, "Slide, Kelly,
After Kelly was traded to the Braves for a record $10,000 in one of the
biggest deals in baseball's early history, Chicago fans were so upset they boycotted
their team, except when Boston played there. Joining the Players' League in 1890
as Boston's player-manager, Kelly's team captured the league championship by posting
an 81-48 record. After serving as player-manager for Cincinnati-Milwaukee of the
American Association for part of 1891, Kelly returned to Boston and helped the Braves
win titles in 1891 and 1892. He played a few games for the Giants in 1893, then drifted
to the minors, managing Allentown in the Pennsylvania State League and Yonkers in
Imaginative and quick-thinking, Kelly was credited by
Cap Anson with devising the hit-and-run play, although this is disputed. He studied
the rules and found ways to get around them, causing the league to make changes.
Colorful both on and off the field, Kelly acted with flair and was admired and adored
by fans. He wore the finest tailored clothes and the most current styles. American
billboards featured the handsome, happy-go-lucky Irishman as the nation's best-dressed
man. Kelly supplemented his income with off-season stage appearances and wrote Play
Ball. Following his retirement from baseball, he opened a saloon in New York. In 1894, en route to Boston to appear at the Palace Theater, he died of pneumonia at age LM
|FROM THE BASEBALL CHRONOLOGY|
|» November 6, 1886: The Sporting News publishes the official National League averages, which show King Kelly as the batting champ with a .388 average, 17 points ahead of Cap Anson. The paper previously had printed its own stats showing Anson ahead, .374 to .366.
» February 8, 1887: Mike "King" Kelly meets with Chicago owner Albert Spalding for contract talks. Kelly, who won the NL batting championship for the pennant-winning White Stockings, wants the bonus of $375 that Spalding promised for good behavior last year. Spalding refuses to give him the bonus or to rescind the additional $225 withheld from Kelly's salary as fines for drinking.
» February 16, 1887: Chicago announces the sale of King Kelly to Boston for $10,000, more than twice the amount ever paid for a player before. With the contract and bonus, Kelly is dubbed a "$15,000 Beauty."
» January 10, 1918:
Acknowledging that Ty Cobb, Speaker, and Collins are all good ball players, Cap Anson picks his all-time team, leaving them off. In the current issue of TSN, Anson selects, C–Buck Ewing and King Kelly; P–Amos Rusie, John Clarkson, Jim McCormick; 1B-himself; 2B–Fred Pfeffer; 3B–Ed Williamson; SS–Ross Barnes; OF–Bill Lange, George Gore, Jimmy Ryan, and Hugh Duffy.