A “King” Kelly Story

17 Nov

In 1905, Elmer Ellsworth Bates of The Cleveland Press told a story about how the game had changed over the past two decades.

Ellsworth said that during the 1880s he witnessed an incident at the Café in Cleveland’s Weddell House Hotel involving Mike “King” Kelly.  Bates said he was with umpire “Honest John” Gaffney when Kelly came in:

Mike "King" Kelly

Mike “King” Kelly

“(T)he swing doors flew open and about half of the players of the Chicago team—Kelly in the lead—marched in.  The game between Cleveland and Chicago that day had been a stormy one, and Gaffney had assessed fines right and left.

“Kelly had been the chief offender.  Drawing at first a $5 penalty for disputing a decision, he had called Gaffney names at $5 or $10 a name until he owed the National League $50.  Kelly had left the ballpark vowing he would attend to Gaffney later.  I expected trouble when Kelly came in, for it wasn’t his first visit to that part of the hotel that night.

“’Hello, Gaf,’ Mike shouted, as he saw the umpire.  ‘Have a drink—you and your handsome friend.’

“’Much obliged Kel’ said Gaffney: ‘I’m not drinking today.’

“’Say Gaf,’ Kelly went on, ‘how much did you soak me today.’

“’An even $50,’ replied Gaffney, very quietly.

John Gaffney

John Gaffney

“’Reported it to the boss yet?’

“Not yet,’ was the reply.

“’Tell you what I’ll do,’ said Kelly, grabbing up the dice box.  I’ll shake you to see whether it’s $100 or nothing.’

“Gaffney started to walk away.

“’Come on, Gaf, be game,’ the other players called.

“So he came back.

“’Horses?’ asked Gaffney.

“Nope,’ said Kelly.  ‘One throw.’

“Gaffney spilled out aces and fours.  Kelly turned the box bottom side up, and, lifting it again, disclosed three fives.

“All right,’ said Gaffney, ‘the fine don’t go.’

“’Come on there, fellers,’ shouted Kel, starting for the door, ‘let’s go out and spend that $50.’”

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5 Responses to “A “King” Kelly Story”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pfeffer on Kelly | Baseball History Daily - December 31, 2014

    […] Mike “King” Kelly died in 1894, Fred Pfeffer his teammate with the White Stockings from 1883-1886 eulogized him in […]

  2. “If you say that Man was not out, you are a Liar” | Baseball History Daily - June 24, 2015

    […] also attempted to attack Medart, but Mike “King” Kelly “(S)topped McCormick and then forced Sunday to sit […]

  3. Grantland Rice’s “All-Time All-Star Round up” | Baseball History Daily - August 10, 2015

    […] “Mike Kelly and Joe Kelley—Jimmy Sheckard and Fred Clarke—the slugging (Ed) Delehanty—the rare Bill Lange—Billy Hamilton. […]

  4. Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #16 | Baseball History Daily - October 21, 2015

    […] Catchers—William “Buck” Ewing and Mike “King” Kelly […]

  5. Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #18 | Baseball History Daily - March 7, 2016

    […] was with John Ward and King Kelly one of the greatest of base runners.  I do not mean dress parade base running, either, merely to […]

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