Mike “King” Kelly was one of baseball’s first famous players. His Hall of Fame plaque reads, “Colorful player and audacious base-runner. In 1887 for Boston he hit .394 and stole 84 bases. His sale for $10,000 was one of the biggest deals of baseball’s early history.”
Kelly debuted in 1878 for the Cincinnati Reds. The team was led by Hall of Famer Deacon White who hit .314. The Reds finished second in the National League.
Kelly played his first dozen seasons in the NL. Along the way he won the batting crown in 1884 and gain in 1886. Both years he also paced the Senior Circuit in runs and on-base percentage.
A student of the game, Kelly is credited with devising the hit-and-run. He also played an important role in the double-steal and in the positioning of outfielders bases on the batter’s tendencies.
So famous was Kelly that he made a handsome profit from baseball’s first autobiography.
Play ball: Stories from the Ball Field was published in 1888. That season Kelly was in the middle of his three-year stint with the Boston Beaneaters. The book was organized and put together by the Boston Globe’s Jack Drohan.
Versatile in the field, he played right field, catcher, and third base. For his career Kelly hit .307 with a 138 OPS+. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1945.