December 9 – Happy Birthday Joe Kelley

kelley_joeI doubt there’s a Yankee fan who ever heard of Joe Kelley. Yet, he was one of the original Yankee franchise’s first stars and he was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1971. Kelley’s anonymity within Pinstripe Nation is due to two factors. The first is that he played most of his baseball back in the 19th century. The second reason is that he played just 60 games for the Yankee franchise and those games were played in 1902, when the team was still based in Baltimore and nicknamed the Orioles.

There is no doubt, however, that Kelley was one of baseball’s brightest stars back when Grover Cleveland and William McKinley lived in the White House.  He was a lifetime .317 hitter, who was consistently among league leaders in most offensive categories and also recognized as one of baseball’s best defensive outfielders. He had a 17 year-career, but his best seasons were spent in Baltimore, when the Oriloles were still part of the senior circuit. He teamed with John McGraw, Wee Willie Keeler and Hughie Jennings to lead Baltimore to three straight pennants and averaged .352 during his six year tenure with that team. He once had nine consecutive base hits in an Orioles’ double-header. Kelley was also quite the lady’s man back in the day. He was often seen in public with beautiful members of the opposite sex, enjoying the night-life of Baltimore and other NL home cities, sort of like a 19th century version of A-Rod.

He was traded to Brooklyn in 1899 and helped that team win two straight pennants, but his heart and his family were still in Baltimore. By 1902, the Orioles were part of Ban Johnson’s upstart American League. That year, Kelley jumped the NL to return to the O’s. When his former teammate and current Oriole manager, John McGraw got into a personal squabble with Ban Johnson. McGraw reversed Kelley’s geographical path and jumped from Baltimore back to the Big Apple to manage the Giants. Though it was Wilbert Robinson who took over for McGraw as the official manager, Kelley actually became that Oriole team’s co-skipper. He ended up appearing in 60 games that year and hit .311. When it was learned that Johnson had finagled the transfer of the financially troubled Orioles’ franchise to New York, Kelley jumped back to the NL and became a player-manager for the Reds.

Kelley shares his birthday with this former Yankee starting pitcher and this former Yankee utility infielder.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1902 BLA 60 263 222 50 69 17 7 1 34 12 34 16 .311 .405 .464 .869
17 Yrs 1853 8139 7006 1421 2220 358 194 65 1194 443 911 430 .317 .402 .451 .853
BLN (7 yrs) 781 3624 3048 768 1069 181 98 40 653 290 482 178 .351 .446 .514 .960
CIN (5 yrs) 487 2042 1774 270 492 78 36 6 210 53 186 116 .277 .353 .372 .725
BRO (3 yrs) 384 1678 1484 275 471 66 43 16 249 75 163 67 .317 .391 .452 .843
BSN (2 yrs) 85 310 273 32 70 9 3 2 20 5 29 32 .256 .332 .333 .666
PIT (1 yr) 56 222 205 26 49 7 7 0 28 8 17 21 .239 .297 .341 .639
BLA (1 yr) 60 263 222 50 69 17 7 1 34 12 34 16 .311 .405 .464 .869
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/9/2013.

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