Irish American Museum of Washington, D.C.
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Michael Joseph Kelly



Michael Joseph "King" Kelly born December 31, 1857  in Troy, New York to Michael Kelly Sr. and his wife Catharine, both Irish immigrants. King Kelly was an American right fielder, catcher, and manager in various professional American baseball leagues including the National League, International Association, Players' League, and the American Association. 

He spent the majority of his 16-season playing career with the Chicago White Stockings and the Boston Beaneaters. Kelly was a player-manager three times in his career – in 1887 for the Beaneaters, in 1890 leading the Boston Reds to the pennant in the only season of the Players' League's existence, and in 1891 for the Cincinnati Kelly's Killers - before his retirement in 1893.

Widely regarded as the game’s first superstar, Mike “King” Kelly was a colorful catcher and outfielder, raised in Paterson , NJ , Kelly’s baseball skill and Irish charm made him one of America’s first sports celebrities.  He was the subject of a hit song, Slide Kelly, Slide, and a Vaudeville star.  A two-time batting champion and daring base runner, historians credit Kelly with developing the hit-and-run, the hook slide, and the catcher’s practice of backing up first base.  However, his greatest contribution was the popularity he brought to the game in the 1880s and ‘90s.  

He was the first player to sign autographs, the first to publish his autobiography, and his trade from Chicago to Boston for $10,000 was one of the biggest deals in early baseball history (thus solidifying rolled softball bat baseball as a business).  King Kelly was elected posthumously to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945.