Thank of Michael "King" Kelly as the Reggie Jackson of his day. He was, first and foremost, an exceptional ballplayer. Obtained by Cap Anson in 1880 from Cincinnati, where both his abilities and flash had gone under-appreciated, Kelly flourished as part of the White Stockings dynasty. He won two batting titles in Chicago, including a .388 mark in 1886.
But beyond that, Kelly was a character. He was described by contemporaries as brainy, unpredictable, the perpetrator of tricks and a gallery favorite. Cap Anson credited Kelly with inventing the hit and run play, although that claim cannot be verified. Neither can the story that, on the bench one day, Kelly saw a foul ball coming his way, yelled "Kelly now substituting," and made the catch. We do know, though, that the rule barring substitutions while the ball was in play passed during Kelly's tenure.
So it came as a great shock to White Stockings fans when on February 16, 1887 Chicago announced that it had sold Kelly's contract to Boston for $10,000, by far the largest sum ever exchanged for a player to that date. It was probably the first transaction underscoring the fact that while baseball may be a game to its fans, it is also a business to the people who run it.
When King Kelly returned to Chicago for Boston's first visit of 1887, a throng of 10,000 fans greeted him. The King did not disappoint his loyalists, whacking a triple and two singles.
A lifetime .308 batter, King Kelly's Hall of Famestatistics, character and purchase price were recognized in Cooperstown in 1945.
ELSEWHERE IN BASEBALL
Cap Anson refuses to let his Chicago White Stockings play in an exhibition game against Newark July 19 unless black pitcher George Washington Stovey is pulled off the field. A batter is declared out after three strikes have been thrown.
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