Tag Archives: Mike “King” Kelly

“One of the Saddest Spectacles I have Seen”

30 Mar

King Kelly made his New York stage debut at the Imperial Music Hall in January of 1893.

The Brooklyn Citizen said he was being paid $250 a week “to succumb to the fever of the theatrical stage.”

The New York Herald described the moment Kelly took the stage:

“He was hailed with cheers the instant he stepped before the footlights…It was the first time the Gotham baseball cranks had heard the former king of the right field sing, and they clapped their hands and stamped their feet in jubilation…His friends said that his first dip into the uncertain sea of theatrical life was a success.”

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A less generous syndicated review appeared in newspapers across the Midwest and West under the headline:

“King Kelly As A Star”

The article said:

“Kelly is a very handsome man and that particular has a very good stage presence.”

The “principal event” of Kelly’s performance was to recite Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat.”

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Ad for Kelly’s New York appearances 

His delivery of Thayer’s poem was not a hit with the nameless author of the piece:

“Kelly is probably as near to being king of the national game as any man, but he has thus far failed to solve theatrical curves.

“As an elocutionist Kelly undoubtedly fans the air as successfully as Casey did when he left no joy in Mudville by striking out.”

By the time Kelly took to the stage, Actor DeWolf Hopper had made “Casey” a well-known poem, having performed it throughout the country on vaudeville stages:

“When one has heard Hopper describe Casey’s unfortunate adventure, comparison between Hopper’s effort and that of Kelly naturally follows. Hopper’s performance is a work of art. One can almost see Casey as the comedian describes how he rubbed his hands with dust and wiped them on his baseball shirt preparatory to knocking out a 3-bagger. Kelly’s effort is without spirit, and the umpire says, ‘strike two’ as calmly as if there were several dozen left before Casey could possibly succeed in striking out.”

The writer allowed that Kelly was better in the portion of the show where he sang with his stage partner Billy Jerome.

A reporter for The New York World provided a more positive take:

“Kelly, the king of the ball-tossers, made a three-bagger. He hit one or two staccato notes so hard that he drove them through the skylights. The bleachers up in gallery shouted and howled until they grew red in the face. The cohorts down in the grandstand applauded. In the meantime, the umpire down in the orchestra waved his baton frantically and called Kelly safe. Mike was not a thing of beauty, but he made the hit of the season. Of course, Mike has not the voice of (Italian Tenor Francesco) Tamagno. Neither has Tamagno the make-up of Kelly.”

The World noted Kelly was “deluged” with floral arrangements from the likes of Tammany Hall boss and former Congressman “Honest” John Kelly and racetrack owner Phil Dwyer who sent “a sleigh of roses and carnations,” to former Giants owners John B. Day and Edward Talcott, who presented Kelly with “a floral wreath with ‘king’ in big letters woven around it,” to “Teddy Foley and the Bowery House Chowder Club,” who sent six “floral baseball bats.”

Kelly’s most scathing review came the week before he opened in New York; the “Boston Correspondent” for The Fall River Daily Herald, caught Kelly when he appeared at Boston’s Howard Athenaeum:

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Ad for Kelly’s Boston run

“One of the saddest spectacles I have seen for some time I beheld in a theater here one evening this week. M.J. Kelley, the $10,000 beauty, engaged in making a show of himself, trying to be an actor, inflicting the public with a sample of his vocal powers, was a sight calculated to make men weep. What on earth Kelly is doing on the stage I cannot see. What excuse he has for the act is beyond imagination. As a ballplayer he was a success, but as an actor is is as dismal a failure as it is possible to conceive…He stands up awkwardly as a manikin and moves with the grace of a wooden Indian”

“The Great American Public is with us”

25 Mar

In 1890, The New York Star provided a dramatic version of how Mike “King” Kelly let National League officials—meeting in New York–that he planned to join the Players League, beginning with one of the best descriptions to be found of Kelly’s sartorial splendor:

“King Kelly was in high feathers Thursday afternoon. He sauntered down Broadway with a yard-wide smile on his face. His box topcoat was open in front, revealing a perfect-fitting Prince Albert, a pair of English check trousers, a beautiful fancy vest of brown silk, cut low, and exposing to view an immaculate shirt front, in the center of which was a Kohinoor of wonderful brilliancy. He swung a heavy gold-headed cane with the careless abandon of a man thoroughly pleased with himself.”

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Mike “King” Kelly

Kelly then entered the meeting:

“He turned into the Fifth Avenue Hotel and acknowledged the salutations he received on all sides by raising his shining beaver. The Boston magnates soon surrounded their late captain and so did some other delegates.  They got very little comfort out of the ‘King.’

“‘You are all pretty good fellows, but you won’t do. The great American public is with us, and it’s pretty hard to beat them. We will play the greatest ball ever seen on this earth. Every man is a star—not a ham in the lot. Whenever you fellows want to borrow, come around an see me. Good day.’”

Kelly’s Boston Reds won the first and only Players League pennant, and the King hit .325 and stole 51 bases appearing in 90 games.

“That was Base Ball Playing with more Science”

24 Feb

Sargent Perry “Sadie” Houck played for seven National League and American Association clubs from 1879 to 1887. After his retirement, the Washington D.C. native owned a roadhouse on Conduit Road (renamed MacArthur Boulevard after World War II in honor of General Douglas MacArthur), and was occasionally sought out by local reporters for his views on the modern game.

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In 1907, The Washington Evening Star said of Houck:

“(N)ext to Charley (Pop) Snyder and Doug Allison, none is remembered more by the old boys.”

And his name, “always brings the smile of fond remembrance” from fans and he was “a player that ranked with George Wright and Davy Force.”

The paper said that Houck and Snyder had played amateur ball for “the Creighton club,” which played their games on the White Lot—current site of The Ellipse, south of the White House and north of the National Mall.

The Evening Star said Houck was:

“A ‘dirty ball player,’ and by this we do not mean that he tried to injure another player, for he was never known to do an act that ever brought discredit on his fame as a straight player. But in the history of the game, no one, not even Uncle Nick Young, can recall the time when he ever saw Houck in a neat, trim condition as far as his uniform went, for he always had the appearance of a football player after a gridiron struggle on a wet and soggy field.”

Houck, who still took “a lively interest in the game,” had a strong opinion about bunting:

“Say, it gives me a pain to read about players laying down a neat bunt or playing for a sacrifice in order to advance a runner a base. Any old player who gets long green for playing base ball ought to be able to bunt or sacrifice or hie away to the tall timbers in disgust.”

Houck said:

“It is dead easy to poke your bat out in front of a pitched ball and let it hit your bat, and the fellow that is unable to do that ought to go out and chop stones.”

It was a better game he said, before “bunting was discovered by Mike Kelly.”

Houck much preferred the “science” of the “old fair foul hits,” he said:

“(They) struck on fair ground, but glanced off into foul grounds ere it reached either first or third base, and to successfully hit the ball this way required all the skill and grace of a skillful billiardist getting in his best carom work. It was impossible to hit the ball similar to the way the present-day bunters and doing, slow and methodical, but on the contrary it had to be met at a certain angle with a heavy swing in order to get the best results, and hence when success was accomplished the batsman invariably made a two-base hit.”

Houck said the best practitioners of the “clever piece of batting,” were:

“Davy Force, Ross Barnes, Joe Gerhardt, Buck Ewing, Levi Meyerle, myself,”

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Ross Barnes

The tactic was so successful he said, that “pitchers of the country united and forced the new rule.”

Houck’s conclusion on how the rule change impacted the game:

“That was base ball playing with more science than these modern gladiators show in their ‘baby bunting’ plays, and I would cut out all such business. Make the players lace them out and the game will get back to the fine batting matinees that used to take place in the good old days.”

And the “modern” game:

“Nowadays the pitcher can pitch, but can’t hit; the catcher can catch, but can’t throw; the fielders can bat, but are too loggy to run, and so on through the entire crowd. Do away with your bunting a sacrificing squads and give us good old-time free batting and running.”

Houck remained in Washington D.C. for the rest of his life; by the time he died in 1919, he was so forgotten that local death notices didn’t mention he had been a major league player.

“Fifty bucks, Buck”

10 Feb

Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Tribune called Buck Ewing “the greatest of them all,” after Ewing died in 1906.

Fullerton said, “Ewing stories will be told for generations,” and shared one about a bet with Mike “King” Kelly.

”It happened back in the days when the players of the different clubs were friendly and met at night to discuss and argue over their games instead of sulking separately and discussing their woes.”

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Ewing

He said that day, Kelly had stolen two bases “off the king of catchers,” and Kelly, “kept harping on it until Buck was a bit nettled.”

Ewing told Kelly:

“Well Mike, if Danny Richardson plays second tomorrow, I’ll bet you $50 you don’t steal a base.”

Kelly took the bet, and Fullerton said the following day “three or four of us who knew of the bet sat together in the stands.”

 

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Kelly

Kelly singled in the third inning:

“(O)n the first ball pitched; he tore for second with a fair start. Buck threw. The ball went like a shot, straight towards the bag, perhaps three feet up the line towards first, a perfect throw to catch any runner—except Kelly. Richardson got the ball five feet ahead of the runner. He was stooped over and swung his body quickly to tag Mike, he expecting the King to make one of his famous twisting slides. Instead, Kelly leaped, jumped clear over Richardson, and lighted flat on his back on top of second base.

“Above the roar of the crowd arose Kelly’s voice, and what he said was this:

“Fifty bucks, Buck.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things: Clark Griffith

3 Feb

Griff out West

Griffith loved to tell stories about his time playing in Montana, one story the “truthfulness” of he “vouched” he told The Cleveland Leader in 1912:

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Griffith

“The scene was at Butte, back in the nineties (1892), and the story resulted from a baseball game between Missoula and Butte at the latter town. There were a lot of gamblers in Butte who wanted to back the team, so about $5000 was bet on the game.”

Griffith was on the mound for Missoula:

“Everything went along nicely for a while, with a monster crowd on hand hollering for everything it was worth for Butte to win.

“In the ninth inning Missoula was leading by one run, but after two were out Butte got a man on third and then the catcher let the ball get away from him. It rolled a short distance, but when the catcher went to retrieve it one bug leaned over the stand with a six-shooter in his hand. ‘Touch that ball and you are dead,’ he shouted. And the catcher stood stock still in his tracks.”

Griffith said the players “were scared stiff” and watched the tying run cross the plate.  He claimed Missoula scored in the 10th and won the game 5 to 4.

Griff on Lajoie

In 1900, Griffith and Hugh Fullerton of The Chicago Tribune were watching Napoleon Lajoie take ground balls during practice:

“He looks less like a ballplayer, handles himself less like an infielder, goes at a ball in the strangest style, and gets them more regularly than any fellow I ever watched. He fights every ball he picks up, scoops them with without looking, and keeps me nervous all the time.

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Napoleon Lajoie

 

“Every time a grounder goes down to him, I want to bet about three to one he will fumble, but he always gets them. He has some system for making the ball hit his hands which I don’t understand.  And I’ll tell you a secret: He has a system of making his bat hit a ball which drives pitchers to drink.”

Griff’s All-Time Team

In “Outing Magazine” in 1914, Griffith presented his all-time team:

P: Amos Rusie

P: Walter Johnson

P: Cy Young

P: Christy Mathewson

C: Buck Ewing

1B: Charles Comiskey

2B: Eddie Collins

3B: Jimmy Collins

SS: Herman Long

LF: Bill Lange

CF: Tris Speaker

RF: Ty Cobb

Griffith’s most surprising pick was choosing Comiskey over his former teammate and manager Cap Anson. He told the magazine:

“(Comiskey) was the first man to see the possibilities of the position. Before his day a first baseman was only a basket. He stood glued to the bag, received the balls thrown to him, but never moved away.”

Charles Comiskey

Charles Comiskey

He said Anson, “Although a great player, was not Comiskey’s equal.”

He chose Long over Honus Wagner he said, because “Hans has a barrel of ability, but he’s not such a foxy player as many persons think, but he is a wonderful batter.”

Griffith called Jimmy Collins, “The most graceful fielding third baseman the game has ever seen,” and said Tris Speaker ”is the most remarkable outfielder that ever lived.”

As or his chosen catcher, Griffith said:

“Buck Ewing never has known an equal as a catcher. I call him the best ballplayer the world ever has known. The only man who approached him was Mike Kelly of the old Chicago White Sox, Kelly too, was a wonder, but not quite equal to Ewing.”

“So, Great Buck Ewing is Dead”

21 Aug

“So, great Buck Ewing is dead.”

That was Sam Thompson’s reaction when told by The Detroit News that Ewing had died at age 47.

Ewing was less than five months older than Thompson, who had come out of retirement to play in eight games for the Tigers just two months earlier.

“They’re slipping away, aren’t they, those fine old fellows who by their head work and lovable natures made the game what it is today! It was such men as Ewing, (Tim) Keefe, (Roger) Connor and a score of others who inspired me.”

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Ewing

Although roughly the same age, Ewing was in the major leagues for five seasons before Thompson made his debut:

“As a boy I used to read of the great Ewing, and I set him up as my ideal. He and Connor were always my idols.  Later, when I began to play in the big leagues and (later) went to Philadelphia, I roomed with Roger (in 1892), my acquaintance with—while it in no way lessened my regard for him—sort of pulled him from the pedestal. Ewing, however, I never became so closely attached to, and there was always the baseball idol worship about the man for me.”

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Thompson

Thompson said when he did interact with Ewing, it added “to this setting him higher as the ideal” of a baseball player:

“He was such a whole-souled, lovable chap. His wonderful work on the diamond in no way affected his disposition. He was always modest and retiring.”

And he said:

“There never lived a greater catcher or all -around ballplayer.

“Mike Kelly? Well, Kelly was a grand ballplayer all right, but he was the cunning player, the fellow with startling tricks. Ewing, on the other hand, was the thinker, the deep student of the game. His was the inside game. No player ever lived who could play the same kind of game that Kelly put up, but Ewing was of the different type. He was the more consistent thinker.”

Thompson said he believed Ewing was “the first catcher to get the infield signaling down t anything like a system,” and:

“He was the pioneer of present-day headwork behind the bat. He always had us hugging the bases. He devised tricks that are now common in baseball. They were figured out long before the game started. Kelly’s greatness, on the other hand, lay in his marvelous ability to grasp a situation quicker than lightning.”

He said when he played “with the old Detroit team we used to anxiously await who going to catch,” for the Giants:

“If it was (William ‘California’) Brown there was a sigh of relief. Not that we were belittling the work of Brown; it was simply that Ewing was so much better. He dazzled us. He had the infield under his control all the time. He had tricks of pulling us off the sacks that were new and we did not know what to do. That old Detroit bunch could win with Brown catching almost any day in the week, but with Ewing it was different.”

One man was responsible for New York’s success:

“It was Buck Ewing who won all those championships for the old Giants.

“Tim Keefe stood out as a wonderful pitcher. It was Keefe and Ewing. That old battery was the talk of the country.

“And yet Tim Keefe told me time and again, when they were at their best, that without Buck Ewing he would be no better than any other fairly good pitcher.

“’It’s all Buck,’ he would say, ‘he’s the boy who steadies me and gets the work done.”

Thompson’s first major league game—July 2, 1885–was against the Giants, with Keefe on the mound (although he misremembered Ewing being behind the plate that day—it was Pat Deasley):

“I don’t recall whether I did anything in the game (Thompson replaced Gene Moriarty in right field after the latter was in the 5th inning, he was 1 for 2 and scored a run) but I do remember we won. We beat the Giants 4 to 0.

“That victory did more for me among the players than any one thing. They called me their mascot. New York had been beating them right along.”

 

Thompson said when he left the Phillies in 1898, he nearly played for Ewing:

“I had left Philadelphia and had decided to give up the game. Ewing was then managing the Reds and wrote me asking if I would come to Cincinnati. He said he thought he could put through a deal whereby I could sign up all right.

“I was sorely tempted, as I had always wanted to play in Cincinnati. I had always been given a good reception there and had played some of my best games there.

“I didn’t accept, however. I thought that I might not do as well as I had, and I didn’t want to show poorly after all the good work I had done in that city.”

“I am not Fool Enough to Give $25,000 for one man”

12 Jul

A.G. Spalding sold Abner Dalrymple, George Gore and King Kelly before the 1887 season. Having sent the message that no player on the Chicago roster was untouchable, William Albert Nimick, owner of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys approached the White Stockings owner with an offer on September 23.  In a letter to Spalding, printed in The Pittsburgh Post, Nimick wrote:

“Dear Sir—If there is any truth in the rumors that A.C. Anson’s release can be obtained, the Pittsburgh baseball club, knowing his ability as manager, captain and player, is willing to pay for his release, the largest sum ever offered for a single player, viz: $15,000. Be kind enough to let me know at once if you will consider this offer.”

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Nimick

Spalding responded to Nimick:

“Dear Sir—Yours of the 23rd inst. Containing the unprecedented offer for the release of Captain Anson just received. I confess to some surprise at the amount named and if we seriously thought of releasing Anson it would prove a very tempting proposition. My personal relations with him have always been of such a satisfactory nature that I would hate to lose him. About all that I can say at present in reply to your offer is that should we decide to release him you will be advised of that fact before anything is done.”

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 Anson

Nimick told The Post he took Spalding’s letter as an indication that “There is still some hope of our getting Anson.” He said if he could not get Anson, he would be able to acquire either second baseman Fred Pfeffer or shortstop Ned Williamson. The Post said:

“The prevailing opinion in Chicago is that the three players named cannot all remain in the Chicago club harmoniously, and that one or more of them must be transferred.”

The Chicago Tribune asked Anson about the potential of his playing elsewhere in 1888:

“I know the offer has been made and am surprised that such a sum should be offered for a baseball player. I am, of course, sorry that baseball men are sold by the different managers as so much material, without considering what they have to say in the matter, but it gives me satisfaction to know I am worth so much as a baseball player. If Nimick should buy my release from Spalding for that sum he would have to settle with me afterwards before I would play with the Alleghenys. I never expect to play with any other than the Chicago club. As long as I remain in the baseball world I hope to be where I am at.”

One month after the original offer was made, The Post reported that the Pittsburgh owner was not giving up and had made “the most sensational offer for a player on record.”

The paper said Nimick increased the price to $25,000, but the Pittsburgh magnate denied the story the following day. He told The Pittsburgh Leader:

“I am not fool enough to give $25,000 for one man.”

Nimick also denied a rumor that he had offered $10,000 for Chicago pitcher John Clarkson, who would be sold to Boston for that price six months later. He told the paper Pittsburgh was, “fixed as well if not better than any other club” for pitching.

The Pittsburgh papers and Nimick held out hope of acquiring at least one of the three Chicago stars until November, when Spalding was quoted in The Press putting an end to the speculation:

“(Nimick) offered $15,000 for Anson and would have given more if he could have been bought. He won’t leave Chicago, however. I have 16 players signed or it least equal to it.”

Anson, Williamson, and Pfeffer all remained in Chicago.  Nimick bought Fred Dunlap from Detroit, Al Maul from Philadelphia, and Billy Sunday from Chicago—the three were secured for roughly half of what was offered for Anson.

The Alleghenys were 62-72 and finished sixth for the second straight season; Anson guided Chicago to a 77-58 second place finish.

“Low ebb of Baseball”

24 Jun

Shortly before the American League’s inaugural season in 1901, The Brooklyn Eagle—likely long-time sports editor Abe Yager–asked:

“What has been the cause for the current low ebb of baseball?”

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Abe Yager

The paper said some suggested the “squabbling and bickering” among team owners and “the efforts of the National League to keep the game to itself,” as possible reasons.

No, said The Eagle, it was clear who was responsible for the latest concern that baseball would no longer maintain its popularity:

“The players themselves, however, are the principal offenders.”

The paper reasoned that during “the halcyon days of the 80s, when baseball was in its prime” players were spoiled.

“In those days the hired man was a popular idol, the public looking up at him as a little god to be worshipped. He was wined and dined, all his peccadillos were looked upon as the eccentricities of the great, and when he got into trouble with the minions of the law everybody hastened to help him, and the matter was hushed up as much as possible.”

The paper cited examples of how players had been treated in the past:

“Gus Weyhing, ten years ago, threw a sandwich against a valuable ceiling in an East New York brewery, causing damage to the extent of several hundred dollars. The proprietor of the place brought suit against Weyhing, but the case was hushed up and the player was set free.”

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Gus Weyhing

Then there was Mike “King” Kelly:

“When Boston paid $10,000 to the Chicago club for his release (in 1887), the world stood aghast that such a price be paid for a ball player, and the Bostonians fell on their knees and worshipped him…the adulation showered upon him stopped only at the presentation of a house and lot and a carriage and pair.”

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 “King” Kelly

And in Brooklyn the was the case of Bob Caruthers. When his contract was purchased from the St. Louis Browns before the 1888 season:

“(Caruthers) was the observed of all observers when he arrived here. Brooklynites jostled each other in their efforts to form his acquaintance. He was introduced into many clubs and everything was done to make his stay here pleasant. Bobby had an ungovernable temper when things failed to go his way. This was especially the case when he was playing cards, and he was known frequently to tear up entire decks and throw them about the room. But this was taken as a peculiarity of a great man and nothing was said.”

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Bob Caruthers

The deal whereby players were put on a pedestal; their bad acts were covered up, and in turn didn’t agitate about how they were treated were this version of “the good old days” when baseball was not in decline. But now:

“Since the ‘brotherhood’ war…The players have gradually but fully fallen from the pedestals and are no longer idols in the in the eyes of the public. Their objections to being bought and sold on the plea that they are slaves, their rowdyism on and off the ballfield, frequent barroom fights and cases of intoxication which are now made much of.”

And the fault was only with the players:

“(T)he squabbling over salaries, their rush to the public print whenever they have real or fancied grievances.”

Complaining about salaries, fighting over the reserve clause, it was reasoned, had “pulled the scales from the eyes of the baseball loving people.”

Not the magnates, the players, were responsible for the inevitable demise of the game, and for baseball being eclipsed by sports that:

“(H)ave not he appearance of being business enterprises. And the players wonder why they play before empty benches.”

Despite the latest prediction that baseball’s best days were in the past, the benches filled up at a higher rate in 1901 than 1900; even with attendance declines in National League cities with new American League competition, league-wide the attendance increased by nearly 100,000. Brooklyn attendance jumped from 183,000 to 198,200.

“As a Trickster he was a Marvel”

12 Jun

Dan Brouthers was working at the Polo Grounds in 1917—after John McGraw got Brouthers hired, he held a variety of jobs there according to contemporary news accounts, including night watchman, custodian, and operating the gate at the press entrance to the ballpark—when The New York World asked him to reminisce about some of the his experiences as a player.

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Dan Brouthers

Brouthers said he was told by McGraw when he had earlier scouted for the Giants, “brains and speed are what you are to look for.”

Brouthers said:

“If you get hold of a good, speedy man, with something more than a bone above the ears, you probably have the makings of a good ball player.”

He said players with the combination of brains and a willingness to flout the rules had won many games when he was playing:

”It may be that the poorer team had a fox on it somewhere, and every time the umps are asleep or looking the other way, he pulls one over…There are of course, some people who believe in playing baseball on the level. But a good many other birds realize that it is played on a diamond, and so take advantage of all corners.”

One player stood out in that category for Brouthers:

“Mike (King) Kelly was a shark for that sort of thing. He could have sold earmuffs in the Philippines or palm-leaf fans in Alaska. He was a wonder as a baseball player, but as a trickster he was a marvel. Whenever he was on the field the umpires spent half their time combing the wool away from their eyes.”

Brouthers described The King:

“He was very little short of six feet tall, weighed in the neighborhood of 180 pounds, had a fine, full mustache which was the fashion in those days and a bluff, genial manner that disarmed suspicion and made you like him from the first.”

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Kelly

He said:

“Mike was the idol of the fanatics, and anything he did was right…He was so popular that he had three nicknames—The King of the Diamond, The Only Kel, and the $10,000 Beauty…Kelly was as full of tricks as a monkey, and couldn’t stand to lose a game if he could win it—by any means at all.”

Brouthers provided his version of the most famous story about Kelly, which he said happened when they were both with the Boston Reds in the Players League in 1890:

“One afternoon Kel was sitting on the bench, while (Charlie) Bennett was catching.”

Brouthers is confusing his former teammate with the Detroit Wolverines—Bennett–with Morgan Murphy and William “Pop” Swett who were the other two catchers in addition to Kelly on the club.

“The game was close, but Kel had made up his mind we had to win it and had his peepers skinned for a chance to put one over. Suddenly the man at bat knocked a high foul that Kelly saw (the catcher) could not catch. It is hardly likely that what Kelly did would have occurred to any other manager. What Kel did was jump up and run for the foul ball at the top of his speed. And while running for it he kept shouting to the umpire that he had taken (the catcher) out of the game and had substituted himself. Then he caught the foul ball.

“According to Mike’s way of doping it out, it was strictly according to Hoyle.”

Brouthers said Kelly then walked over to the catcher and took his mask and glove:

“Then the astonished umpire and the spectators came out of their trance at the same time and there was a yell from both of them. Kel insisted everything was O.K. In fact, he didn’t even concede there was room for an argument. There was nearly a riot over the affair, but it ended by Kelly being shooed back to the bench, and the batter being called safe. That one was a little too raw for the ump. But Kel wore an injured air all the rest of the game, and although the crowd knew he was wrong, they all sympathized with him.”

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Cartoon by Herb Roth of The New York World which accompanied the article

Brouthers said Kelly had more success with other stunts:

“When I was with Detroit Kel was playing with Anson’s Chicago club. At a game in Detroit, when I came to bat in the ninth inning, there were two out and three on base. Moments like that are big ones in a batter’s life, and I got a toe hold and made my mind to tear the cover off the first good one that came across. I believe we needed three runs too. Kel was playing in the field that day. I picked out one that I liked and hit it hard enough to drive it out of the lot. I was sure the ball was going over the fence, because Kelly was running in that direction like a mountain goat. Just as he got near the fence, he made a wonderful jump and got the ball. That made three out; the game was over, and Kel kept running into the clubhouse, taking the ball with him. We lost the game, of course.

“Some time later Kel confessed to me that the ball he apparently caught he had never even touched. It had cleared the fence by 10 feet!”

Brouthers said Kelly often hid a ball in the outfield, “opposing teams didn’t know this at the time. If they had, Kel probably would have died a violent death.”

“One foggy afternoon in Philadelphia, with Phil Powers umpiring, Philadelphia had a man on base when Sam Thomson came to bat. Sam picked out one he liked, and, as we found out later, poled it clear over the right field fence. But because of the fog the umpire couldn’t follow the flight of the ball.

“Now Kelly had a ball hidden in the long grass near the fence, and when Thompson made his hit, Kelly never looked at the ball in play at all, but dived for the extra ball. He fumbled around a bit as though he were looking for it and then picked it up and made an accurate throw to home, putting out the man who had been on first when the ball was hit.”

Brouthers said Thompson was sure the ball had cleared the fence and, “roared like a lion and called down the vengeance of high heaven” on Powers.

“And while he was ranting and roaring, Kelly, with an injured and innocent air, was calmly proving that the ball never went near the fence at all. Powers believed Kelly and his own eyesight, and Thompson, almost crying with rage, was fined for kicking.”

Brouthers said Kelly showed of his “foxiness” coaching third base as well.

“If a ball had been fouled by the man at bat and hit the grandstand, Kelly would demand that the pitcher throw it to him, in order that Kelly might be sure it was not cut or ripped. He only pulled this stunt when there was a man on base. Then the pitcher, if he were not wise, would throw the ball to Kelly. Kelly, instead of catching it, would dodge it, and allow it to roll past him, and the man on base would streak for home. And probably get there before the ball could be returned. Of course, this only worked once on the same man, but it sometimes helped to win a game.”

Brouthers also said Kelly attempted to use a potato as a ball in the 1880s:

“I can remember one time he took a potato to right field with him, and when a hit ball bounded past him, he made believe he had caught it, and then turning whipped the potato to the second baseman. The second baseman relayed the potato to third in order to get the man trying for that base. And he might have got him but for the fact that the potato was not a solid one and burst when the third baseman caught it.”

Brouthers said Kelly “was the most genial fellow in the world off the diamond,” but considered umpires “an eyesore.” He said “he would stand as close to him as he could and jaw him until the ump would run up a $100 fine on him in $5 and $10 clips. But that didn’t work the King any, because someone else always paid his fines.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking up Other Things #34

6 Jun

Trash Talk, 1887

In June of 1887 the Cincinnati Red Stockings dropped to sixth place in the American Association pennant race; Ren Mulford of The Cincinnati Enquirer assured his readers the team would not remain in the basement. The St. Louis Post Dispatch responded:

“Ren Mulford Jr., of Cincinnati, whoever he is, is quite a chatty baseball writer, and his apologies for the Cincinnati club are a mark of rare ability. Mr. Mulford, whoever he is, thinks the Reds will not be at the sixth place when the season ends, but Mr. Mulford, whoever he is, will probably find out his mistake later on.”

ren-mulford

Ren Mulford

Mulford was correct, the Red Stockings went 61-33 the rest of the way, finishing second—but it was not enough to catch the St. Louis Browns who won the pennant by 14 games.

Burns on Anson, 1898

Tom Burns, in the process of leading the Chicago Orphans to a fourth-place finish in 1898, told Henry Zuber of The Cincinnati Times-Star that Cap Anson was not primarily responsible for the reputation he built as a great manager in the 1880s:

tomburns

Tom Burns

“Anson had a team that could think for itself. It was not necessary for him to direct the play of the team on the field, for the reason that the players were far above the average in baseball intelligence, and worked and studied together without the aid or suggestions of the manager. The late Mike Kelly carried the leading brainery of the team, and it was he, with the aid of the other baseball-intelligent men of the team, that invented and carried out any plans and tricks that proved such an improvement to the game and made the White Stockings the famous team they were.”

Anson’s teams finished first or second nine times from 1880-1891, from 1892 until he left the team in 1898 his teams finished no better than fourth.

Louisville Patriotism, 1898

At the outset of the Spanish-American War in April of 1888, The Cincinnati Post said of Harry Pulliam’s Louisville Colonels:

pulliam

Harry Pulliam

“Patriotism is running amuck among the Colonels. They purchased gaudy red, white, and blue stockings for yesterday’s game, and each player wore a tiny United States flag in his cap band. President Pulliam is thinking of raising a regiment. ‘The governor of Kentucky,’ said the happy executive, ‘is having all sorts of trouble. You know everybody worth mentioning in our state is a colonel, or considers he is of that rank. All wish to enlist, but no one is ready to accept a commission below that of colonel.”

Comiskey on “ungrateful” players, 1894

By 1894, Charles Comiskey, in his last year as a major league player and manager and leading the Reds to a 55-75 tenth place finish, told The Cincinnati Post his opinion of players had changed:

Charles Comiskey

Comiskey

“Ball players are often accused of being and ungrateful lot of men. I used to defend them on this charge, but I must confess that recently I have come to the conclusion that the average player is inclined to throw down his best friend. It’s a broad assertion, but my experience has been a severe one. There are some true men playing the game, but you can quickly pick them out of every team.”