Today in Sports History #7 - Baseball Story - February 14, 1887
Hello Steemians - the Valentine's Day edition of "Today in Sports History" is a Baseball story from the 19th century in Chicago - not the White Sox but about the Chicago Cubs. On February 14 the Chicago Cubs sold Mike King Kelly to Boston for record $10,000 - this was in the year 1887.
Who is Mike "King" Kelly - did anyone of you steemians watch him play?
It seems he was hero and legend and having read a lot about him I need to confess, he as a true LEGEND - he even inspired artists to produce a movie and even musicals. In a nutshell he was not our usual baseball player - Mike was commonly known as "$10,000 Kelly," and an American outfielder, catcher, and manager in various baseball leagues. One of his achievements he got credited with was to helping to popularize various strategies as a player such as the hit and run, the hook slide, and the catcher's practice of backing up first base as examples. We trust the sources here as I can not remember all that anymore (a little bad joke from a German).
Why was this news so special at all, why was it a big deal? Was it the amount of $10,000? Selling players was extremely controversial, and to sell the biggest star of all was a scandal. Behind all of this was the specter of slavery for the working-class men of that time. Being not self-employed and working for a wage was kind of seen as slavery. The athletes have been a very proud bunch for sportsmen that wanted to raise the stature of their profession highlighting they were not slaves. In the times of legal slavery selling an athlete was considered as slavery too - kind of. Mike was one of them to fight for principles - he was special but financially he did not succeed long-termed but that is a different story. Mike was a wild boy.
After he was sold to Boston Mike Kelly became "King" Kelly. He continued to play well and his behaviour off-the field became even more interesting. He was often seen with his pet monkey on his shoulder to name only one. In addition to playing baseball he opened a saloon with a drinking buddy.
Kelly's fame grew but his baseball skills vanished. He gave dramatic staged readings and was inserting himself into a legendary story. He inspired a songwriter to write a song called Slide, Kelly, Slide which was the first pop chart hit (you can say) released for the phonograph - a hit until the early 20th century. The title "Slide Kelly Slide" remained a common expression meaning trouble was coming.
He was only thirty-six years old when he tried from pneumonia. His funeral was visited by over seven thousand visitors. Sadly he had left his family with nothing, having spent all his money on his extravagant lifestyle. Within a decade, one of the heros of baseball history was forgotten, only the silly song was remembered. Kelly was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945.
Sources used: Wikipedia and Sports Illustrated and the book of Marty Appel's "Slide, Kelly, Slide: The Wild Life and Times of Mike 'King' Kelly" (Lanham, MD, 1999)
To see what happened in Sports History already - check the links below: