King Kelly (left), Boston Beaneaters team photo (right)

When Did Michael “King” Kelly Play for the Boston Beaneaters?

Michael “King” Kelly received his nickname and a handsome salary with the Boston Beaneaters but when did this happen?

After playing for the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Stockings (the modern day Chicago Cubs) Michael Kelly was sold to the Boston Beaneaters (the modern day Atlanta Braves) by Albert Spalding (the same guy who founded the sporting goods company) for what at the time was considered an absurd $10,000. It was at this time he was given the nickname “King” and arguably this is when his celebrity stock rose.

Group photo of the Boston Beaneaters baseball team in 1892.
Credit: Boston Public Library, Flickr

The Boston Beaneaters

The Boston Beaneaters are a baseball club that still exist as the Atlanta Braves today. They were founded in 1871, which actually predates the National League by 5 years. Throughout the history of the franchise they had names such as the Braves, Beaneaters, Bees, Doves, Rustlers, Red Stockings and Red Caps. After years in Boston they ended up moving to Milwaukee and then, modern day Atlanta but to this day the franchise was in the city of Boston for a longer period of time than they have been in the modern city they are certainly more known for existing in in modern times. But we aren’t speaking of modern times here, we are more interested in the 1880’s and 90’s when the famous Michael “King” Kelly donned the uniform.

Michael "King" Kelly in Boston uniform
Credit: Boston Public Library. Flickr

Michael “King” Kelly in Boston

After successful years in Chicago as a member of the Chicago White Stockings from 1880-1886, a time period in which he was a key member of a team that won the pennant 5 times under the management of another legendary baseball player, Adrian “Cap” Anson. After butting heads with Albert Spalding, who owned the National League club at the time, sold him to Boston.

When Did King Kelly Play for the Beaneaters?

He ended up on the Boston squad in 1887 and was even given the role as manager for the team but the 1887 team could not capture the success the White Stockings had with Kelly as they finished with a 61-60 record, 16.5 games out of the pennant. Kelly stayed with the Beaneaters 1889 when he left. He returned in 1891 and enacted some sense of revenge over his former Chicago Club (now named the Colts) as they won the pennant. He again was on the team in 1892 when the team cruised to a pennant with 102 wins (and even won a World Series vs the Cleveland Spiders with a 5-0-1 record, which was more of an exhibition and pre-dated the World Series that were familiar with today)

Michael "King" Kelly in normal casual wear still sporting a fine mustache
Credit: Boston Public Library, Flickr

More About Michael “King” Kelly

Michael Joseph “King” Kelly was a seminal figure in the history of American baseball, known for his charismatic personality, innovative playing style, and considerable impact on the game during the late 19th century.

Born on December 31, 1857, in Troy, New York, Michael Joseph Kelly quickly made a name for himself in the world of baseball. He earned the nickname “King” due to his flamboyant and entertaining style of play, which endeared him to fans and set him apart as one of the earliest baseball celebrities. His charisma was not limited to the field; he actively engaged with the public and the media, further enhancing his reputation.

Kelly’s professional career in Major League Baseball began in 1878 when he signed with the Cincinnati Reds. He was a versatile player, primarily known for his prowess as an outfielder and catcher. However, his impact extended beyond his positions, as he was a true pioneer of the sport.

One of King Kelly’s significant contributions to baseball was his role in popularizing various strategic elements of the game. He introduced the hit-and-run play and was an early advocate for the hook slide, both of which added excitement and depth to the sport. His innovative approach to baseball strategy laid the groundwork for the more complex and strategic game we see today.

Kelly’s offensive skills were also remarkable. He was an accomplished hitter, known for his ability to consistently make contact and hit for a high average. He led the National League in batting average twice during his career and was known for his prowess as a base stealer. He was a dynamic player, combining power, speed, and skill in a way that was unusual for his era.

During his career, King Kelly played for several teams, including the Chicago White Stockings (now the Chicago Cubs), the Boston Beaneaters (now the Atlanta Braves), and the Boston Reds in the Players’ League. He was highly sought after, and his presence on a team brought excitement and energy to the ballpark.

In recognition of his contributions to the game and his legendary status, King Kelly was one of the earliest players to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was enshrined in Cooperstown in 1945, cementing his place in the history of the sport.

Tragically, King Kelly’s life was cut short at the age of 36 when he died from pneumonia in Boston on November 8, 1894. His untimely death marked the end of a remarkable era in baseball, as he had not only been a star player but also a charismatic figure who helped shape the game into the national pastime that it became in the late 19th century.

In summary, Michael “King” Kelly’s influence on baseball transcended the diamond. He was a charismatic and innovative player who popularized strategic elements of the game, adding to its excitement and complexity. His legacy endures as one of the early baseball celebrities and a Hall of Famer, and he played a pivotal role in shaping the sport into what it is today.

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share on Social Media