Position: First baseman
Teams: New York Giants, 1915-1917, 1919-1926; Pittsburgh Pirates, 1917; Cincinnati Reds, 1927-1930; Chicago Cubs, 1930; Brooklyn Dodgers, 1932
George Kelly was a key player in the last glory years of John McGraw’s Giants, helping win four straight pennants from 1921 to 1924 and two world championships.
George Lange Kelly (1895-1984) was born in San Francisco one of nine children. His uncle was Bill Lange, an outfielder in the late 1890s for the Chicago White Stockings. By age 16, George was playing semipro ball at Golden Gate Park.
A native of San Francisco, George Kelly
was active in West Coast
baseball circles until his death.
Three years later, uncle Bill recommended George to Mike Lynch, another former Chicago player, to play in the Northwestern League. After he signed, George hit .250 that first year, in 1914. He improved his average almost 50 points the next year when he was signed by the New York Giants.
At 6'4" and 190 pounds, George was tagged with the nickname “Highpockets” upon arriving in Gotham in 1915. When Giants manager John McGraw threw Kelly into the fray, however, he was overmatched. He hit .158 in 1916, and McGraw sent George to Pittsburgh in ’17 on the condition that he would return if he didn’t make the Pirates. Luckily for New York, George hit .067 that year and was returned. McGraw optioned Kelly to the International League, where he hit .300.
After a year in the military, Kelly returned to the IL to bat .356 in 1919. He then hit .290 in the NL during the last 32 games of the campaign. George surpassed all judgments when he led the NL with 94 RBI in 1920, and he then led the league in home runs in 1921. Kelly was a good first baseman, and a good enough fielder to play more than 100 games at second base in 1925 when Bill Terry was stationed at first base. Kelly led the league in fielding categories 12 times.
Although Kelly hit just .248 in Series play, he had some big hits, including a three-hit game in 1921, and the game-winning hit in Game 4 of the Giants’ sweep of the Yankees in 1922. His best Series, a .290 average and seven runs in 1924, was his last, and the last pennant for McGraw.
Kelly hit .300 in six seasons and drove in 100 runs four times for the Giants, but when Terry was finally ready to play full-time, George in 1927 was sent to the Cincinnati Reds for one of the best center fielders of that time, Edd Roush.
George had one good season for the Reds in 1929, notching 103 RBI. Cincy released Kelly in 1930. He played for the Cubs that year, and he played half a season for the Dodgers in 1932 before retiring for good. George was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973.
Here are George Kelly's major league totals:
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