Teams: Boston Beaneaters, 1891, 1908; Pittsburgh Pirates, 1891-1892; Baltimore Orioles, 1892-1898; Brooklyn Superbas, 1899-1901; Baltimore Orioles (AL), 1902; Cincinnati Reds, 1902-1906
Manager: Cincinnati Reds, 1902-1905; Boston Doves 1908
Managerial record: 337-321
Joe Kelley was a good outfielder and a productive hitter who might not be remembered at all today had he not been traded to Baltimore late in the 1892 season.
Joe Kelley hit over .300
for 11 straight seasons.
In 1893, Kelley's first full campaign in Baltimore, Orioles manager Ned Hanlon (a fine outfielder in his own day) made Joe his pet project. Hanlon dragged Kelley out to the park early every morning to work on improving his fielding and hitting fundamentals.
With Hanlon hounding him, Kelley quickly became the most complete player on the National League's best team during the mid-1890s.
Beginning in 1893, Cambridge, Massachusetts, native Joseph James Kelley (1871-1943) topped the .300 mark in 11 consecutive seasons, reaching a high of .393 in 1894.
Although never a league leader in a major batting department, he would usually score well over 100 runs each season and knock home nearly the same amount. A deft basestealer, he paced the loop with 87 thefts in 1896.
It was for his imagination and crowd-pleasing antics, however, that Kelley was best known. He is credited with originating the trick of concealing baseballs in the high outfield grass at the Baltimore park, allowing Orioles gardeners to make seemingly impossible stops on balls hit into the gap and then throw out startled baserunners.
Along with Hanlon, Hughie Jennings, Willie Keeler and several other Baltimore stars, Kelley was shifted to Brooklyn before the 1899 season when the Orioles encountered financial difficulties. Kelley, the team captain in Baltimore, was named to the same position in Brooklyn after Hanlon became the Superbas manager. Between Kelley's leadership on the field and Hanlon's on the bench, Brooklyn took the NL flag in 1899 and 1900.
The upstart American League prevented a third straight pennant by luring several Brooklyn stars into its camp. Kelley joined them in 1902, jumping to Baltimore's entry (also called the Orioles), where he was reunited with John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson, two other important cogs from the great Orioles teams of a few years earlier.
McGraw soon deserted Baltimore, though, to return to the NL. A few weeks later, with the Orioles deep in last place, Kelley defected as well, signing with Cincinnati. Named manager of the Reds after only two weeks, he remained at the helm through the 1905 season and then lingered one more year as a player only. After hitting just .228 in 1906, he drifted down to the minors. Kelley was named to the Hall of Fame in 1971.
Here are Joe Kelley's major league totals:
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