Baseball Americana- Mike “King” Kelly

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Mike Kelly is part of the early days of baseball. Many of them that are forgotten.

The section titled, “Baseball Americana” is to take the fans of the game back to a time of the very early beginning of the game of base ball. It is my hope to introduce you to the players, managers, fans and other noteworthy people of early baseball. Sit back and enjoy.

Michael Kelly was born on December 31, 857 in Troy, New York to Michael Kelly Sr and Catherine. Both were of Irish descent. His father joined the Union army at the start of the Civil War. Michael began playing baseball while in Washington DC with his mother and brother James.

When his father returned, he was very ill and they moved to Paterson, New Jersey. by the time he was 18 years of age, his parents had died and he as an orphan.

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Michael Kelly Baseball Life

At the age of 15, he played for Blondie Purcell’s amateur team back in Paterson NJ. The had game against many team in and around the metro New York area. From 1875 to 1877 he participated in semi-pro baseball in Paterson and a few other cities. In 1877, he was a member of the Paterson Olympics until June 10th. Then he joined the Delawares of Port Jervis in Ne York. He rejected an offer for $ 70 per month and came aboard with the Buckeye Club of Columbus, Ohio.

He made his major league debut in 1878 with Cincinnati. This happened because his friend Jim McCormick  played for Columbus and suggested he be signed and Mike became a major league player. He played there for two seasons a an outfielder and backup catcher. Then the Cincinnati team and Chicago White Stockings went on a tour of California and Chicago snagged him in 1880 and was signed by Albert Spalding secretary of the team.

Chicago was a great place to play financially as it drew a large attendance with the teams coming in from the east coast.

Now that he had some money, he moved into the Palmer House  the loudest, brashest, most garish and, according to its literature, “fire-proof” hotel in the world. Kelly proved his worth a he led the league in home runs 1884-1886 batting average 1884 and 1886 with .354 and .388 averages and he became the best defensive catcher in the game and was one of the first to use a glove and chest protector. Chicago won five pennants while he was in uniform.

After his spectacular 1886 season, he was sold to the Boston Beaneaters for a record $10,000 and as a result became known a the “$10,000 beauty” and eventually “King”. He continued to be successful in Boston and drew many fans to the game with his run producing style. the issue came as the team didn’t produce any pennants.

In 1890, he became player-manger for the Boston Reds and won the title, In was then that friends bough him a  $10,ooo house  about 15 miles from Boston

Wikipedia says these people contributed to it:

During the 1890 season, friends bought him a $10,000 house at South Hingham, Massachusetts, about 15 miles southeast of Boston. Contributors included former umpire John Kelly, the owner of their New York bar; Boston fans Arthur “Hi! Hi!” Dixwell and Frank Norton, and Boston Players’ League President Charles A. Prince and Secretary Julian B. Hart. They contributed $300 each (equivalent to $8,537 in 2019). Others who gave included John Graham, Jim McCormick, and captains Buck Ewing of New York and John Montgomery Ward of Brooklyn. The house, worth $10,000, could not be mortgaged based on the $1,100 in donations, $400 of which went for a horse and carriage, so in the winter of 1890-91, father-in-law John Headifen “came to the rescue of his (Kelly’s) [ friends and subscribed $1800”, the Boston Record said. The Old Colony Savings Bank in Plymouth then gave a matching $2,500 loan, and with that a mortgage was obtained. When he signed with Boston in August 1891, the club’s directors gave him a check for $4,300 for “lifting the mortgage on his ‘popular subscription’ home.”

In 1883, the house, stable and land was put up for sale to pay for $123 of unpaid taxes. It also ha a $2000 mortgage af 5% interest. In October 1893, the house was sold.

He played in the National League, International Association, Player’s League and American Association during his 16 years of professional baseball. The majority of the games were with the Chicago White Stockings and Boston Beaneaters.

After baseball he became and actor and later a  vaudeville career,

Mike Kelly Base Running

Kelly as a good base runner and led the National League three times. He reportedly stole 86 bases in a season and once stole six bases in one game. He used the unheard of hook slide to avoid being tagged out.

He died on November 8, 1894

In only the second vote since its creation in 1939, the Old Timers Committee (now the Veterans Committee) elected Kelly to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945.

About the author– Tom Knuppel has been writing about baseball and sports for a few decades. As an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan he began with the blog CardinalsGM. Tom is a member of the United Cardinals Bloggers and the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. He also maintains the History of Cardinals website. More recently he has been busy at KnupSolutions and the primary writer of many sports at KnupSports and adds content at Sports 2.0. Tom is a retired High School English and Speech teacher and has completed over one hundred sportsbook reviews. He also can be followed on Twitter at tknup.

Feel free to contact Tom at

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