Last month we republished John Montgomery
How to Become a Playerfrom 1888. This month we add a rarer book
from that same year. The bonusBaseballChronology
Book of the Month is Play Ball:
Stories of the Ball Field by Mike
The book, introduced and assembled by Boston
Globe columnist John J. Drohan and published by Emery & Hughes, is
the first book of baseball stories ever written by a baseball player. To
the extent that it is autobiographical, it is the first of that genre in
the baseball world as well. (Fellow baseball writer Jacob Morse was
assumed for decades to have been the ghostwriter, but an 1889 book by J.B.
Cullen called The Irish in Boston makes it clear that it was Drohan
and that is the only actual evidence we have.)
It sold for 25˘ and was published just
prior to the 1888 baseball season while Kelly was with Boston and six
years before his untimely death at age 36 due to complications from
To make it somewhat easier to view, we
have published it on two web pages. This is the first. A link to the
other page is at the bottom of the page.
Everything from the original book is
included and some images have been added (there were none in the
original). As always we will point out any obvious factual errors in the
text and have corrected minor textual errors. To avoid confusion,
commentary we add to the text is enclosed by double brackets and in color
like this: [[BaseballChronology
is a sample.]]
Stories of the Diamond Field
Mike Kelly of the Boston Base-Ball Club
To the thousands of American people who annually grow
excited and cheer on their favorite players to victory:
to the ball players of America:
and to the small boy who does so much to uphold the game:
this book is dedicated by the author.
As a rule, the preface of a book is dull, and there are very few people
energetic enough to wade through it. Therefore, when Mr. Kelly requested
me to write a preface to his little book, I made up my mind that it would
be brief, and to the point. The man himself is so well known to the great
American public, that one word of introduction about him is hardly
necessary. For a number of years he has stood at the head of his
profession. He got there by hard work, and he holds the position by a
wonderful display of physical vitality. He has done much to improve the
interests in our national sport, and on all sides he is hailed as
"The King of the Diamond," a title which he richly deserves.
Mr. Kelly's work on the base ball field has been simply wonderful. Not
only is he a good, safe batter, but he is regarded as the very best base
runner in this country. Combined with these valuable requisites in the
makeup of a ball player, he is one of the greatest all-around players in
this country. He is record at the finish of the season might, perhaps, not
be as good as that of other players, but it must be remembered that he is
not a record player. He is a winning player, and always plays for his nine
to win. Kelly on the ball field is much better known than Kelly in private
life. On the ball field he is a dashing, go-ahead, get-there, and inspires
his fellows with the greatest confidence. He is cautious, yet at the same
time he is bold. He is quick to see a point, and quicker to take advantage
of it. When other men would stop to think in a game, he would be acting,
and generally acting for the best. Kelly has an immense amount of energy,
and, when on the ball field, he seldom rests. How wonderfully clever is
his coaching from the first bag when a run is needed! As a base runner he
has few equals. He has a record of having covered the bases in just
Kelly won his great reputation while a member of the Chicago club. While
there his great head-work, his bold but successful tricks, his wonderful
base running, and his timely batting, all assisted in winning many
championship games for his club. At present he is a member of the Boston
club. It cost the Boston management just $15,000 to secure him for a year.
Of this sum, $10,000 was paid to the Chicago club for his release, and
$5,000 for the first year's salary. The salary and premium is just about
one and one-half as great as that received by the chief justices of the
United States, and five times as large as the amount received by the
governors of many States. It will be remembered that for this salary, Mr.
Kelly works but a few months in the summer season.
Off the ball field, as well as on, Mr. Kelly is a great favorite. He is
personally acquainted with many prominent men, and has more friends than
any man in his profession. His cheery, open-hearted nature is almost a
proof against enmity,—unless, perhaps, some does exist in the base ball
ranks because of professional jealousy. He is generous with his money; and
no comrade or acquaintance, in misfortune, ever applied to him for aid and
went away empty handed. An intelligent, agreeable conversationalist, he
always has something good to say, and he knows just how to say it. Blessed
with an original personality, he finds many imitators, especially in his
profession. If Kelly originates today, his idea is copied tomorrow.
In his book, "Play Ball," Mr. Kelly doesn't claim any
literary finish. He simply has a series of stories to relate, and he tells
them in his own way. What could be better. In base ball, he doesn't play
to win the applause of the grand stand; he plays heart and soul to please
the masses. So it is in this book. It is intended for the American people,
both old and young. It will be found as interesting to the overworked
lawyer, who closes his office early on a summer afternoon to see a ball
game, as it is to the American small boy, who "hooks Jack," and
witnesses the game from behind a knot-hole in the fence. It will be found
particularly interesting coming from the "king of the ball
field." In closing I can but say, "Long live the king!" May
his book be as successful with the lovers of the national sport, as its
author has been on the diamond field.
Boston, April 1, 1888
There are so many exciting incidents in the life of a ball player, that
it is almost impossible for one to put them on paper. A ball player is a
busy individual in the summer months, and in the winter very often he has
but little to do. Therefore, when the idea of writing a few reminiscences
was suggested to me, I thought it an excellent idea. Here at Hyde Park on
the Hudson, where I spend the winter months, one has plenty of time for
literary work. There isn't a great deal to do here in winter. There is
plenty of ice boating and "sliding" down the big hill,—"tobogganing"
they call it in the big cities, but "sliding" is good enough for
Hyde Park,— the entertainments and dances at the engine-house, the
billiard tournament at the Hyde Park Club, a most excellent club for young
men, founded by Archibald Rogers a few years since, and the meeting of the
village gossips at "Pop" Hornung's. So one can see that writing
is a most agreeable change from these pastimes.
I will not endeavor to tire my readers with a history of the game in
this country. Abler pens than mine have done that. I will simply relate
some of my experiences on the diamond field, and give a brief sketch of my
are so many interesting things which occur in the course of a season, that
unless one has a particularly retentive memory, he is apt to be at a loss
just to know when to begin and where to stop. In these articles I will not
bore my readers by discussing rules or the principles of the game. Those
of you who have seen a base ball game know just how its played, and what
the rules are. Those of you who have never witnessed a game of ball should
go, at the first opportunity next season. I am willing to wager that after
looking at three or four games you will become a regular fiend. I have
known men to forsake their business day after day to see their favorite
clubs at work. There is excitement enough in two hours to last the
ordinary man for as many days.
Many times have I been asked the question, "To what do you ascribe
the great popularity of base ball?" This, seems to me, can be
answered in just two words, "The excitement." People go to see
games because they love excitement and love to be worked up. That is one
reason why I believe in "kicking" now and then on the diamond.
It may be all right for the newspapers to say that "base ball will
become more popular when played without kicking." I disagree entirely
with these authorities on this subject. Look at the Chicago Base Ball
Club. It has been the most successful in this country. Why? One good
reason because they are "chronic kickers," and people flock to
see them to witness the sport. You won't find the ordinary man going out
to a base ball field when it's 80° in the shade to see two clubs play
ball for a couple of hours, without a word being said on either side. The
people who go to ball games want good playing, with just enough kicking to
make things interesting thrown in.
Of course, because of being the $10,000 beauty, and all that sort of
thing, there was more or less excitement regarding my appearance with the
Boston club last season. In some towns they had an idea that I was a sort
of "Jumbo." Down in Hartford I remember playing a good game, and
keeping pretty quiet all the way through it. Yet I played ball just as
good as I ever did before. At the conclusion of the game I heard a
conversation between two men.
One said, "So that is Kelly, is it? Well, what do you think of
His partner replied, "Well, I firmly believe that he is an
overrated player. Why, he didn't kick a bit. He can't play ball." You
see he wanted more kicking and less ball playing. There wasn't excitement
enough in the game, and it made him very sore, indeed.
All of which convinces me that a little kicking now and then will
greatly please the best of men.
In this book I will, by request of a good many young men throughout the
country, give a few hints on training. There are one hundred and one
different ideas as to how a man should train. Some of them are good, and
some of them are anything but good.
Whether it's of any particular interest or not I do not know, but as a
matter of fact, I was born in Troy, N. Y., Dec. 31, 1857. My father
enlisted among the first citizens of Troy, and did his duty as a soldier
for three years —the term of his enlistment. He made a good soldier,
too, and he liked it so well that at the end of his three years'
enlistment he again joined Uncle Sam's forces, and served his flag until
the war was over. Meanwhile I grew up a healthy, good-sized boy, and my
good mother sent me to school in Troy when I was but five years old. She
was desirous that I should receive a good education — a trait which runs
through almost every parent who comes from the little green isle across
the sea. They may not have had the advantages for an education themselves,—
British misrule prevents that,— but they know the value of education,
and feel that their sons and daughters shall receive their share of it in
this great country of ours. When the war was over my father was stationed
at Washington, so the family moved there. There were two generals I saw
there in a parade of some sort when I was a boy, and I never shall forget
their magnificence. They were General McClellan and General Kilpatrick. So
much gold and gold lace I never saw before. They were simply magnificent.
For years I remembered them, and it was the ambit ion of my life to go and
do likewise. Well, there never was another war, to give me the desired
opportunity. I pray God there never shall be. We are all citizens of one
grand, glorious country. We all should work for the common good, and have
our glorious country lead the nations of the world, which it certainly
I was sent to school again in Washington, and as I grew older I grew
stronger, and so did my love for out-door sports. At nine years I could
outrun any boy in the school, and a year later I made my first appearance
as a base ball player.
Base ball in those days was a little bit different from the game of the
present. The boys used to play "burn ball." If you were hit by
the ball before reaching the base, you were out. Many a time have I been
hit in the small of the back, and for a moment imagined that my back was
I played my first real games in Washington as a member of a regularly
organized club. I went in with the Keystones, and played in various
One of the very best players in the team at that time was Dave Walling.
Dave was a great ball player for a boy. Not only could he bat well, but he
ran bases in great shape, and could play almost each and every position in
the field in a most acceptable manner. I always said that if he stuck to
it he would become a great ball player. But he wouldn't stick. He got
stage-struck, and doubled up with Reynolds, who was also a Washington boy.
Under the names of Reynolds and Walling, these two made quite a reputation
on the variety stage. I have always felt bad for Walling. The stage gained
a good actor, and the ball field lost a great player, and don't you forget
Ill health compelled my father to leave the army, and we moved to
Paterson, N. J., where I saw for the first time the "red mud"
for which that State is so famous. I liked the color of it at first, but
after being caught in a bad rain-storm one night, and getting mud all over
me from top to bottom, I had no special regard left for the aesthetic
color. My father's health didn't continue to improve any, and we had not
been in Paterson very long before he passed over to the great silent
majority. My mother followed him not long after. God bless them both, I
shall forever cherish and bless their memory.
boyhood days in Paterson were just the same as is usually spent by boys.
In my more youthful days, out-door sports occupied most of my time after
school-hours. Like many of the college youth of the present day, I didn't
go in very strong for study, but I was a great hand for the sport.
"Jim" McCormick, now of the Pittsburg club, was one of my
earliest comrades in Paterson. We always agreed upon the proper kinds of
sport, and our great admiration for Joe Start bound us more strongly
together. We did not know whether we would become actors, ball players, or
engineers on the railroad. These, to us, were the ideal professions. We
would talk for hours and hours over our whittling sticks talking over the
glorious future which awaited us. Finally we resolved to go into the
theatrical business. Mac's father had a good-sized cellar in his house,
and here we erected our theatre. We had a disagreement on the opening
bill. Mac wanted the performance to be "Jack Sheppard," my ideal
was "Dick Turpin." Well, Mac had his way. His father owned the
theatre. I wanted to play Jack, but again Mac had his way. He played the
robber and I made my appearance as "Jonathan Wild, the thief
taker." We opened the cellar, and to use a professional saying,
"turned people away." There was just forty-five boys in the
house, which meant that the proceeds were just forty-five cents. The play
went along all right until near the close. Then "Jack Sheppard"
is hanged. The rope was put around Mac's neck, and as the cheap curtains
were drawn together the audience saw Jack pushed off the block he stood
on. Jack grew black and blue in the face, and were it not for the arrival
of McCormick senior on the stage, perhaps the present great pitcher of the
Pittsburg club would never have been heard of. "Jack Sheppard"
was cut down, and for a couple of days he was a very sick robber. He was
willing that I should play Jack after that. But I wasn't. I didn't care to
take any chances. That ended our season of theatrical management. It also
killed Mr. McCormick's ambition to become an actor, and partly killed
mine. I still have hopes, however.
Well, after that I went to work— for a time. I went in to a big mill
for three dollars per week. I was supposed to carry baskets full of coal
from the basement to the top floor. The baskets were almost as big as
myself. I reported for duty one fine summer morning at six o'clock. I
carried up one basket ten minutes later. When I came back I asked the
foreman if that was to be my daily toil. He replied "Yes." All I
had to do was to put my hat on, and again I was free to participate in
out-door sports. McCormick went to work— he got the fever for work a
small boy always has when going to school — but his was a far more
important position. He kept turning a crank which kept the mill going. If
Mac went off to get a drink of water, the mill shut down until he
returned. It used to shut down pretty often during his two days'
connection with it. He got tired and gave up his work. He also had plenty
of time that summer for out-door sports.
After that I went to work as the paper boy between New York and
Paterson. I used to go up to New York every morning at four o'clock, and
return at six with my papers. It wasn't very pleasant work, I assure you.
But I had to do work of some sort, and I preferred that. It gave me a
chance to "play ball" in the afternoon. Friends advised me to go
to work and leave base ball alone. They predicted that it would ruin me.
Friends are sometimes wrong. Never disappoint a boy, parents, if you wish
him to be successful in this world. If he wishes to be a clergyman, do not
change his mind. He may be a heart-broken, disappointed man in later
years. There is everything in one picking out his vocation. It may be the
stage, literature, art, the law, or something else. Give the boy a chance
to select for himself. If he wishes to become a base ball player,
encourage him to be an honest one. There is honor in every profession. `Tis
an honor to be an honest ball player. Be sure it's his vocation, first,
then let him go ahead. You will never regret it.
In '73 I began to play in Paterson, N. J. McCormick came to me and said
they were going to organize a base ball team, and asked me if I would
join. I replied that I would be very happy to. We got together, and the
next day the club was formed. Somebody wanted to name the club the
Haymakers, but after a while I insisted that the Keystone was the best
title. Mac agreed with me, and after due deliberation the club was called
the Keystone. The captain of the club was William Purcell, who is now the
captain of the Baltimore club. Purcell was a cranky sort of a boy at that
time, but he could play great ball. He used to be all over the field, and
kicked very strong when vigorous kicking was needed. McCormick, at that
time, was about the same sort of a fellow that he is now. A great, big,
soft-hearted boy. He was a good batter and very gritty. The great Nolan
was the pitcher of our club, and a good pitcher he was. For several years
we played together, and won game after game from the amateur clubs of
Jersey. In 1876 Nolan quit us, and McCormick went in to pitch and I to
catch. This is where we first got a reputation as the Keystone battery. It
stuck to us for many years after. After the first season I was a valued
member of the club. There was one cap in the nine, a fifteen-cent one, by
the way, and I wanted it. Every boy in the nine did. Finally I said that
if I didn't wear the cap I would not play in match games. Several of the
club upheld me, and I wore the cap. The day I wore it was one of the
happiest of my life. I felt that I was a "bigger man than old
Grant," and strutted around the ball field like a game-cock.
Nolan, by the way, was a wonderful boy, too. Just now he is a great
base ball authority in Paterson. He is on the police there, and he never
misses a ball game that is played on his beat.
Our banner year was in 1876, when we beat all the Jersey clubs, and
also several clubs from various parts of the country. We played a sort of
cooperative game. Sometimes we got $1 for the day's work. Sometimes we got
$4, but rarely more than $5. The only thing we were proud of in '76 was
the defeat of the Stars, of Covington, Ky. They came our way and expected
to slaughter us, but they didn't. We slaughtered them. They couldn't touch
the Stars at that time were Silver Flint, McSorley, Golden, Charley Foutz,
later with the old St. Louis nine, and Andy Cummings. Silver Flint was at
that time a tall, rawboned fellow, and was pretty innocent of the world
and its ways. But it didn't take him very long to get initiated after he
got into Chicago town. Chicago citizens have a knack of initiating a
fellow pretty quickly after his arrival in town. Another crack club which
we defeated that year was the Buckeyes, of Columbus. Everybody thought
that they were invincible, until they met the old Keystones. In the
Buckeyes at that time were Nolan, Barney, Ferran, Burke, Doescher, and
Schaeffer. Burke was a splendid all-around player. He is at present in
business at Albany, N.Y. Doescher was a member of the league umpiring
staff last season. I regard him as being one of the best umpires in this
country. He wasn't a great ball player, but he is a great umpire. George
Schaeffer was afterwards in the Boston club. I believe that he is at
present in Philadelphia. I saw him there the other day, and he looks just
as young and handsome as he did in those days gone by. There was another
good fellow in the nine, named Martin Nolan. He is now a successful lawyer
in Columbus, O.
The great games of that season were played with the Mutuals, of
Brooklyn. The Mutuals were, perhaps, the strongest base ball organization
in New York. Well, we met them, and played a series of games for the
championship. First one club would win a game then the other. In the club
were Bobby Matthews, who is at it yet, Hicks, Nelson, and old Joe Start.
There was a ball player for you. I regarded Joe Start as the most reliable
man I ever saw cover the first bag, next to Anson. He saw his palmy days
with the Mutuals, and later with the Providence club, when it was in the
league. Not only could Joe Start bat well, but he could save the players
more errors when covering the first bag than any man in the business. The
games we had with the Mutuals finished the season in grand shape. It began
to get cold, and finally the winter came. Like Othello, the ball player
was without an occupation. I resolved to learn a trade. In the winter of
1877 I went into a factory to learn the silk weaver's trade. I stuck at it
until the opening of the ball season. I was a crank on the game, and
couldn't leave it alone if I wanted to. So I went at it again.
At the opening of the ball season that year I played several games with
the Port Jervis team. I didn't care very much for the place, and jumped at
an offer to go to the Buckeye club, with Jim McCormick for my pitcher. We
had a great nine that year, and it was the first time that I really
thought that I could play ball. Dorgan and I led off the batters. In the
first game I made a base hit, and was so tickled that I started to steal
second. I was thrown out, and the gang gave me the laugh. I didn't think
that I was such a great ball player after that. I might have made the bag,
too, but I had more confidence than I should have had. I thought that I
could make it easy, but I couldn't.
Do you remember poor Chub Sullivan? What a big-hearted fellow he was.
Chub was the first baseman of the team. He was a tall, handsome fellow,
and one of the best dressed ball players I ever saw. He always wore
fashionable clothes, and he was a fellow that could wear them, too. He
died in Boston in 1882, and at the time, the Chicago club was in the city.
They attended the funeral in a body. Chub Sullivan was a great ball
player, and a grand good man in the bargain. He has been dead several
years, yet his memory is kept green in the hearts of his friends. He was a
man in every sense of the word. Among the other members of the club were
George Streife, Burke, Harry Spence, who managed the Portland team last
season and will manage the Hoosiers this year, and Charley Pabor, who is
at present a member of the New Haven Police Force. They do say down in New
Haven that Charley never missed a college game in the town. He almost went
wild with joy when he saw the Yalensians beat the Boston league team at
the opening of last season.
Well, we didn't get big salaries in those days, and a fellow was
sometimes pretty lucky to get his salary. We didn't know the meaning of
the words "advance money." Well, we didn't have a very
prosperous season. The boys played good enough ball, but somehow or other
they didn't seem to have the proper support from the patrons of the game.
So on the nineteenth day of September the good old club disbanded. I
looked about me, and didn't know just what I would do. I received a fine
offer for me, at that time, to go with the Cincinnati club, and I accepted
at once. I was more than glad to get in with such an array of talent as
was in that club in '78. Just look at the names. There were Jim and Will
White, who constituted the battery. The good old deacon could catch just
as well in those days as he plays on a bag during the present time. Will
White is in business in New Rochelle. Cal McVey—you all know Cal —
left the base ball business, arid is happy in the possession of a ranch
out in California. Charley Jones — Bostonians remember Long Charley—was
playing with the Metropolitans last season. In 1879 I was with the same
club. The nine remained pretty much the same, with the exception of Ross
Barnes, one of the best ball players I ever saw, who was an addition. In
'79 we played pretty bad ball, and we were away down low in the league.
A little thing occurred this season which convinces me that
circumstances can make or break a man's future. We started on our Eastern
trip the latter part of May. We went first to Troy, thence to Syracuse, to
Providence, ending in Boston. The team started out under the management of
"Jim" White. Jim grew discouraged at the bad business, resigned
while at Troy, and Cal McVey went into authority. We lost one game out of
three at Troy, two out of three in Syracuse, three in Providence, and the
first two in Boston. Dickerson, one of the club, was under the weather,
and I was playing in pretty bad luck. After the second Boston game was
finished, the record showed that out of the last twenty-one times at the
bat I had reached first base but once, and that was by virtue of an error.
McVey announced privately that night that he had telegraphed Jack Leary,
who was then in Manchester, to come on the next day and play on the nine
in the last game in Boston. He said that he hadn't made up his mind
whether to lay off Kelly or Dickerson; the latter was still ill, but he
did hit the ball occasionally; but he thought that I was the one to be
relieved. With that impression McVey went to bed. Much to Cal's
disappointment, Leary did not arrive in time for the game, and I was put
in again to play right field. I knew what was going on, and I became so
desperate that the ice was broken, and I succeeded in scattering my ill
luck to the winds. I went to the bat five times, making two doubles, a
triple, and a home run. Cal was delighted with my stick work that day. The
team returned home, and we met the Chicagos. In the first game I was very
lucky; I batted in every run made, and won the game for my club. At the
end of the season I stood up among the leading batters. What might have
been the result if Jack Leary appeared on the grounds in Boston? I would
have been aid off, and returned to Paterson in disgrace. Perhaps I never
would have ad nerve enough to play in a league club again. That moves me
to repeat the sacred thought:
Great God, on what a slender thread
Hang everlasting things.
In the fall of that year I was with the Cincinnati-Buffalo
combination which visited San Francisco. We remained their twelve weeks,
played a good stiff game of ball, and came back with a pocketful of money.
In the nine which visited 'Frisco were Jimmy Galvin, Clapp, John Reilley,
Smith, now of the Pittsburgs, little Dave Force, whom we called the boy
wonder, Jack Rowe, and Purcell. We arrived in 'Frisco, after a very
pleasant journey, Oct. 5. We played the California nine at Oakland the
next day, and beat them 5 to 0. The Hop Bitters team had arrived their
about three weeks before us. The Californians thought they were the best
ball team in the country. A game was arranged with this nine for the
following Sunday. Expectations ran high, and their was great excitement,
of course. There was more or less betting, the Hop Bitters team being the
favorite with the sports. We whipped them in
the first game by a score of 9 to 2, and there was tremendous excitement.
Public opinion changed, and we were the greatest ball nine in the world.
The next Sunday Chicago defeated us in the first game, and public opinion
changed again, all of which convinces me that the public is very fickle,
indeed. If you're on top, you're a great fellow. A man was never so great
but that his place could be filled. The king is dead; long live the king.
That's the way of the world, in base ball as well as in anything else. We
played a series of games with the Chicago club, and each nine won three.
I ever tell how I signed with the Chicago club? Well, Anson became a bit
interested in my playing. He asked me if I would like to become a member
of the Chicago club, and I replied that nothing would please me better.
Anson wired President Hulbert, and he replied, "Get Kelly by all
means." For two weeks Anson and I struggled before signing the
contract. Anson wanted me for $100 less than my price. We met every day
and talked the thing over. Anson was obstinate; so was I. Anson came into
my room one day and said, "Well, Kel, are you going to sign?"
"No, sir," I replied, "not unless you give
me the money I want. I am not at all particular to become a member of the
Chicago nine, and unless I get the money I want, I would just as soon go
Anson looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and said that
I would be sorry by-and-by. I told him that I could stand it, if he could.
As a matter of fact, it was the dream and ambition of my life to become a
member of the Chicago club. I knew it meant lots of hard work, and I also
knew that if I was a member of the club, and could play ball at all, Anson
would be the one to give me a chance. He was always willing to push a
young fellow ahead. He didn't know what professional jealousy meant. Well,
I wasn't anxious that he should know that I wanted to go to Chicago. If he
did, he would get me at his own price, just as sure as fate. So I remained
indifferent. For several days I kept away from Anson. Finally, I was
gathering my things and was about to start for home. Anson came up into my
room. "Well, are you ready to sign, Kelly?"
"Quite ready, Mr. Anson, providing, of course, you
pay me what I think is fair."
"Well, all right, my boy, you can have it. Put your
name to the contract."
I did so, and in less than no time I was a member of the
Chicago Base Ball Club.
Our club left San Francisco on the night of Dec. 19, and
arrived at Council Bluffs Christmas night, in a blinding snow-storm. We
were compelled to stop over, and went to the Ogden Hotel. You should have
seen us when we entered the hotel. We were sights. The nine men wore
beards that hadn't met with a razor for many, many days. We all wore
flannel shirts, and when we registered the proprietor smiled all over, and
welcomed the Cincinnati club to the Ogden. Then he invited us to a dance,
which took place in the big dining-room. You should have seen those ten
ball players march in to the dance-hall. Ten men with blue shirts, black
ties and unclean faces. The ladies and gentlemen in the hall were
frightened half to death. They had an idea that we were stage-coach
robbers, or something of that sort. After they discovered that we were
ball players, they forgot about our looks. They made us lions for the
night. We danced there until 6 a.m. We arrived in Cincinnati after a long
trip, and on New Year's night I arrived home in Paterson.
What did I do?
Went straight to another dance, and was at it all night. I
could dance in those days, because, you see, I never was bothered with
While at the dance I heard a conversation between
McCormick's father and Purcell's father. Old McCormick was talking of a
game of ball he saw
the season before. He said: "Mr. Purcell, do yez know that the buoys
gave your son great support all the past summer?"
"Indade, they did nothing of the sort," quoth
Mr. Purcell, who seemed very mad.
"Why, of course they did," said McCormick,
"and everybody knows it."
"Well, everybody doesn't know it, Mr. McCormick. No
boys ever supported me boy. I've been a father to him and I've supported
him for the past twenty years, and you bet yer sweet loife, Mike, that
nobody can say anything to the contrary."
Two letters were received here at Hyde Park by me
recently, one from Chicago, the other from a base ball enthusiast at
Worcester. The Chicago man wanted me to tell what I "knew about base
ball," the other asserting that people didn't care so much for the
base ball part of it, but would like me to give impressions of some people
I have met. I hardly think it would me interesting for me to give my
impressions of the ball players I have met.
A man cannot always give his impressions of people he has
met. Do you think so? It would be particularly hard to go through the list
of ball players, and tell just what you think of them. I do not mean to
cast any reflection upon the members of that profession. Not a bit of it.
Tim Murnane — who can tell you more good stories to the square inch
about ball players than any man in this country— once said to me: "Kel,
ball players are as jealous of each other as two leading actresses in the
Several years' experience on the ball field convinces me
that Tim was right.
Of course there is no exception without a rule. In some
instances I've known players to speak in the highest terms of a man who
was the star of the club he played in. Every club must have a star, just
the same as a dramatic company must have a leading man.
In a small way I was a star myself last season. This was
caused by the big sum of money paid for my release from Chicago. I didn't
wish to have all the glory, because it was very inconvenient at times.
Often on trips last season I was asked the question in hotels, "Which
Sometimes Tate and sometimes Burdock would be pointed out
as the man who was worth $10,000 in a base ball slave market.
But before going any further, it might be well to say that
it's not well for any club to have a star player. Every man should receive
fair, square treatment. The "star" never does. His words are
quoted on and off the ball field, and if he makes the slightest mistake he
is hissed and jeered.
As I remarked previously, the public is fickle. A man
might make a wonderful play in one inning, and receive thunders of
applause for so doing. In the next he might make an error, and the cheers
would be changed to applause not so gratifying. A player doesn't always
work for applause, or for the cheers of the grand stand. He can stand the
cheers of the multitude all right, but the other applause is apt to rattle
him, unless he is an old-timer.
Captain Anson, of the Chicago club, is one of the few men
in the league that cannot be rattled under any circumstances. I've been on
the ball fields with him, and heard five thousand people shouting, howling
and hissing him, but he only smiled. He liked it. Yet he would come to the
bat in the next inning, perhaps, and the hisses and howls would be changed
to loud applause.
The crowd was fickle, and Anson won them over by
displaying wonderful nerve. He is my ideal of what a player should be.
I was a bit afraid of Anson when I first met him. But
after the first meeting we became fast friends, and our friendship has
continued up to date, and I sincerely trust that it will ever be so.
Anson engaged me in 'Frisco in '79, and when I returned
home I remained there just three weeks. I was ordered to report to Captain
Anson at Chicago, April 1, 1880, and I did so. In the clubs I have played
with before going to Chicago, I had a comparatively easy time. It wasn't
necessary that one should train carefully, providing you played good ball.
I expected a similar fate in Chicago, but how sadly was I disappointed.
Captain Anson met me there on a Sunday, and we had quite a
long talk. He said that the next day he would take me around to see W. H.
Hulbert, then president of the Chicago club. Like many others who had
never met Mr. Hulbert, I stood in wholesome awe of him. A more thorough
gentleman than he never lived. He was very kind to me at our first
meeting, and told me just what the club expected. Our interview lasted but
a few minutes, yet the impression remains with me still. Mr. Hulbert lived
just two years after he appeared first with the Chicago club. He was
bothered all the while by heart disease, and his physicians advised him
strongly against attending any of the games. But he was an ardent lover of
the national game, and refused to heed their advice. He attended all the
games up to '82, when he suddenly died, in April of that year. Although
his death was expected, it caused a great deal of mourning throughout the
country. Mr. Hulbert was a man in every sense of the word. During the few
years that I knew him I was with him very often. He was a big-hearted,
honest, straightforward man. He did more to build up the national game
than any one man in this country. He was a man of many resources, of great
executive ability, and just as kindly and as soft-hearted as a child. God
bless his memory. He was a noble man.
In the Chicago club of 1880 were Goldsmith and Corcoran,
pitchers; Silver Flint, catcher; Quest, 2b; Williamson, 3b; Burns, s.s.;
Dalrymple, l.f,; Gore, c. f.; Beals, substitute; Anson, lb, and I played
We were all pretty stout that first day of April, when we
got into Chicago. I thought that perhaps we would do a little gymnasium
work, and that's all. But how mistaken I was. It almost makes me shiver to
think of it.
"How much do you weigh, Kel?" said George Gore
to me one bright afternoon in the Chicago club-room.
"About one hundred and seventy," I replied;
"but why do you ask?" "Well, Ans' will be after you. You've
got to come down about twenty pounds in the next few weeks."
I didn't quite realize what Gore meant at the time, but it
wasn't very long before I did. Captain Anson ordered us to be ready for
work on April 1, and we began to train for the summer. You haven't any
idea what Anson meant by training. He meant training in every sense of the
word. Directly after a light breakfast he would accompany us to the park,
where the morning exercises would begin. We would walk a mile or so, to
get limbered up, so to speak. Then Anson would lead the precession, and we
would indulge in a fifteen-mile dog-trot.
He worked just as hard as the rest of us, and so we
couldn't do any kicking. It wouldn't do any good, anyhow.
Then we would return to the hotel, have dinner, and rest
for an hour or two. About two o'clock Anson would tell us to put our
uniforms on. That meant a game of ball. It was a real game, too. No
knocking up the ball and catching it was allowed. You would just have to
get out in that field, and play as good ball as though there were five
thousand spectators present at the game.
It was base ball all the time. When you hit a ball, even
if it was gathered in by the pitcher, you would have to run to first base
like a deer. If one didn't do it, the "old man" would be after
him very strong. For a few days we were all broken up under his treatment.
It was a bit heavy for us, you know. But after the first week we got used
to it, and really enjoyed it. Anson himself would have as much fun on the
field as a schoolboy let loose to play ball would have in an afternoon. He
would grin when he struck out, and he would grin just the same if he
caught "Goldie's" delivery for a base hit.
Gore didn't like the training, and he suggested that we escape it for a
couple of days, by feigning illness. There was some kind of sport going on
down there, and we wanted very much to be present. We sent word down
stairs in the morning that we were very ill, and wanted to be excused.
Anson came up and looked at us.
"You fellows don't look very well," he said.
"I guess a big dose of hot ginger won't do you any harm."
It was pretty rough on us, but we had to do the ginger up.
Then Anson went off, whistling a merry tune. We were in bed—in lavender—when
Anson returned. "Feel better?" he asked, and we replied,
That meant another dose of ginger. Well, we stood it,
thinking of the sport. Just as we were going to leave the hotel in a
carriage, Anson came up and said: "Boys, I just felt a little ill
myself, and thought I'd lay off this afternoon. But you both look healthy,
and it braces me up. I guess the sport will get along without you both
this afternoon. Come over to the park. We're going to have a little
practice game over there."
We went with him. It was pretty hard to fool the old man.
When the season began, the result of Captain Anson's work
was easily apparent. The boys played ball in great shape, and it was sure
betting that we would win the championship. We did win it, too, although
we had to make a pretty good fight for it.
That same nine played ball together for three years, and
won the championship. In 1883 Boston wrested it from us. Never before was
seen such batting and base running as those boys indulged in during the
season of 1880. Why, it was scientific batting and base running from the
start. Hulbert had great confidence in the base-running qualities of the
boys. I have heard Anson say, that at one of the exciting games there, he
heard Hulbert offer to wager that Kelly would score. Yet there were two
men out, and I only made the first bag by a scratch. It was the best
base-running nine that year I ever saw together. The men could run like
deers, and we fooled most of the pitchers and catchers in the league that
Again, the batting of the boys was very scientific. It was
the first time I ever heard of sacrifice hitting. If a man ever made a hit
and got to first, the chances were ten to one that he would be sacrificed
to third and then batted home. There were many other clubs who could
outbat and outfield us in a game, yet we would win again and again under
The boys played great ball together, and they also did
lots of kicking. I was a little behind the others in this respect on my
first year, but I caught tip and finished under the wire with them the
Unless I am very much mistaken, I was the first one to
introduce signs to the pitcher. I did it in the games I caught that year,
and it caught on right away. Before the season was over, many a base
runner was caught because of those signs. But after a year the custom
spread. In two years about every pitcher and catcher in the league were
using signs. How a little thing does spread. Why, at the present time you
find boys, fifteen years old, playing ball and using all the signs like
veterans. Verily, this is the age of progress.
We got quite a warm reception up in Worcester that year.
When we reached the town there was quite a large gathering to see what we
looked like. I heard one fellow say: "They look like murderers."
He was half right. Seldom, indeed, would you see such a crowd of men. The
members averaged six feet, and in weight about two hundred would be the
limit. I wasn't near so heavy as that then, but have got nearer to it now.
Well, the fellows did some kicking on the field, and got
the Worcester men pretty mad. There was lots of howling, and at one time
it was feared that there would be a riot. But the Chicago club, each
member with a bat over his shoulder, surrounded the umpire, and marched
him off the field. Captain Anson led the precession with a bland smile
upon his face, as much as if to say, "How tickled I am at the warmth
of your reception." The Chicago club have on a good many occasions
performed escort duty for umpires. We saved many a good fellow from being
roughly handled by a crowd.
I remember an experience I had with Tommy Bond, when he was the crack
pitcher of the Boston club. It was my first appearance in Boston with the
Cincinnatis. I had quite a good reputation as a base runner, and Tom knew
"Wait till he tries to steal a bag on me this
afternoon," he said in the United States Hotel to McVey. "I'll
kill him, sure, before he reaches the base.
I heard this, and made up my mind that Tommy would have lots of killing to
do. Well, he hadn't. I made the first base once, in a scratch hit out of
five times at the bat.
"You're going to steal it, are you?" said Tommy,
and I replied that "I was."
Well, I was pretty confident, and started down for that
bag like a streak of lightning. But Snyder was "on," and the
ball got there before I did. The result was that White, McVey, Bond, and
all the boys gave me the grand laugh.
I felt pretty bad that night, and resolved to get even the
next day. This time I kept things to myself. I made three base hits off
Bond, and stole three bases. One of these was from second to third, while
Snyder was returning the ball to Bond. The laugh that night was all on
Bond, but he stood it cheerfully, and said that "Kelly deserved to
get there, because he had nerve enough to take the chances."
The Chicago club always had to play a pretty stiff game of
ball, to win from the other league clubs. There was always more or less
feeling against the nine in various quarters, probable because they were
such great kickers at times. However, the boys didn't mind this very much;
in fact they enjoyed it. It spurred them on, sometimes, to play great
ball. I think the three most exciting games of ball I ever played in, were
against the Providence team, at
Chicago, in 1882. The games practically settled which nine was to wave the
championship pennant. The Providence club came to Chicago, four games
ahead of the White Stocking nine. George and Harry Wright were two of the
first members of the club that I met near the dressing-room. Harry was
the manager of the Providence club then, and George was the short-stop.
The latter was a great short-stop. He picked up a ball with great neatness
and dexterity. He was a good, safe thrower, and seldom, indeed, did he
make a mistake. A very gentlemanly fellow both on and off the ball field,
he had a good many friends, both in and out of the base ball profession.
He is now in business in Boston with Henry Ditson, a bright young fellow,
who is a real lover of lawn tennis.
"bright young" Ditson had earlier hired Kelly to write a few
pages for the Wright & Ditson's Book on Batting, Pitching,
Fielding, and Base Running.]]
Both the Wrights were confident that Chicago would drop
three straight games to the Providence boys, and that they would win the
championship. I wanted to bet Harry a new hat, but he wouldn't bet. The
first game was the most hotly contested game of ball I ever played in.
Every point was fought, and each man exerted every effort to have his side
win. We, perhaps, had a little the best of it, in view of the fact that we
were at home, and were sure to get the encouragement of the thousands of
spectators who witnessed the game. The score in the last inning was four
to three in favor of the Providence club. There was one man out when I
scratched a hit. I got on first and was about to make an attempt to steal
second, when Burns, who followed me, hit a hot grounder to George Wright.
There was one player out, and if George ever got the ball to second it
meant a double play, and that would settle the game. Instead of fielding
the ball to the second baseman, he started for the bag himself. I never
ran so hard in my life. I reached the bag a second before George, and then
like a flash, he raised his arm to send the ball to the first base, to cut
off Burns. Somehow or other an accident occurred at that moment. My arm
went up in the air, and it caught George on the shoulder. The result was,
that when the ball left George's hand it went away over into the grand
stand. I scored first, and Burns followed me a moment later. The cheers
from a thousand enthusiastic spectators, proved that the Chicago club had
won the first great game. The next two were afterwards won by us, and in
the ten games that followed with other clubs, Providence won but two.
Wright was the maddest man in Chicago when the series had finished, and he
claimed that were it not for "Kelly and his infernal tricks,"
the Providence club would have won the series and the championship. He
swore that he would have revenge in the future. I saw him, and had quite a
talk with him. I said, "Mr. Wright, I have played ball for a number
of years; I will do everything in the world to win a championship game of
ball. That is what I am paid for. But during all the time I have played
ball, I never hurt a player. I never spiked a man, never knocked a man
down. I play ball to win, and if I have to employ a few subterfuges to win
I cannot help it. I wouldn't willfully hurt George Wright, or any man in
your club. But self-preservation is the law of nature. When I saw George
raise his arm, I knew that if something didn't occur we would be defeated.
I didn't think of George nor myself. I simply thought of the Chicago
club." Harry was smiling before I finished, and he was willing to
forgive me. Instead of having revenge, he has been a good friend of mine
since that time.
The Chicago club had considered fun at my expense, early
in this season, "82. It seems that something or other I did in Boston
the previous season — I did so many things to displease Bostonians in
those days that I cannot remember just what it was—had aroused the ire
of the Boston press. The papers went for me hot, and all sorts of
threatening things were said. Of course all the boys had the papers, and
they showed them to me day after day. Finally it looked as though I would
be mobbed if I went to Boston. The boys worked on me so that I got ill,
and wanted to be excused from making the trip. But Anson refused to accept
the excuse. Williamson came to we one day, and advised me to cut my hair
off. He thought that if I did, that I wouldn't be recognized in Boston. I
went to the barber's, and had all the hair taken off, the barber using a
sort of horse-clipping machine. The next day it was Silver Flint's turn.
He advised me to have the moustache shaved off. He claimed that if this
was done, I would escape the vigilance of the Boston Judge Lynch party.
Off came the moustache; it was Burns' turn next. He advised me to wear
different clothes, and I took his advise. I went to Boston disguised like
the French detectives we read about. I was the most disappointed man in
Boston. There wasn't any outbreak; in fact, I was treated to a very kindly
manner, far better, in fact, than I deserved. The boys all had the laugh
on me. My hair was gone, and so was that "beautiful moustache,"
as Flint said. I was more than willing that they should do all the
laughing. This experience convinced me that although newspapers can do a
good deal for good or evil, they cannot start a riot.
A great deal of responsibility rests upon the shoulders of
a captain in a professional ball club. He is in a measure responsible for
a man off as well on the field. If a player is not in good condition to
play a good, strong game, the captain is the one to be censured by the
management. If the captain in return censures the player, by fining him,
the chances are that he has made an enemy. The result is, that if four or
five men are fined, the captain soon discovers that life to him is
somewhat of a burden. He can see that the men are not playing good ball,
but he cannot openly accuse them of this. If he levies another fine, there
is going to be another row.
The captain of a ball club has to be a man of considerable
discretion. He is always compelled to have a level head and an even
temper. He must know just the moment to kick at a decision of an umpire;
he must know the moment to give the umpire what the small boy calls
"taffy." He must always encourage his players; never discourage
them, even if half a dozen strike out every time they come to the bat. He
must listen to their grievances, and sympathize with them in their
misfortune. He must tell them that they are great players, and that base
ball couldn't get along without them. He must have the confidence of the
management, or he cannot be a success. It may seem pleasant and profitable
to be the captain of a nine, but it isn't. I had quite enough of it for
one season, thank you. In the future I am more than contented to go out
into the field and just "play ball" for a pastime.
my year's experience as a captain, I never fined a player. Perhaps I may
have had good cause to in one or two instances, but I didn't. What good
would it do if I did? It would not improve the playing of the men any, nor
would it help me in the end. Trouble enough will come to a captain without
his going in search of it. When I was a boy, playing ball, it was the
ambition of my life to wear a white belt, on which was to be marked in
vermilion letters "captain." I've grown older since. Now, I
would rather see the other fellow wear the white belt, on which was
inscribed the letters of vermilion hue.
Who is the greatest captain in the league? Capt. A. C. Anson, of the
Chicago club! He is, without doubt, the most successful captain in the
league. I say this without the least desire to injure any of the other
gentlemen who fill the same position in other clubs.
I do not mean that Anson is the only good captain in the
country. Not by any means. We have had and have some wonderfully clever
men playing on the field, who have made great reputations in this
John M. Ward, to my mind, was a great captain. He could
see the fine points in a game as quick as any man who stepped on a ball
field. Quick and alert, he was always ready to make a good, strong fight
for his side. Ward knows as much, if not a little more, about the rules of
base ball, than any man in the country. He is a scholarly gentleman, a
good fellow, and a great ball player. Ward's great hobby is the
brotherhood; and, while some may question its entire success, there isn't
any doubt that were it not for Ward's headwork and persistency, no such
organization would be in existence. There are some managers who do not
believe in the brotherhood, and assert that it will never amount to
anything. Well, perhaps it won't. Yet with Ward at its head, you can
depend upon it the brotherhood is a strong factor in the national game. It
can exert a wonderful power for good or evil. I hope it will be for good.
"Buck," or William Ewing, of the New Yorks, is
another good captain. "Buck" may not have such a good base ball
head as Ward, but he has hustling qualities which generally land him among
the winners. "Buck" is a splendid fellow personally, and is one
of the best-natured men in the profession. In some quarters he is looked
upon as a kicker. But he is a good-natured kicker, whose little kicks
never leave a sting behind.
Arthur Irwin is a captain who has come strongly to the
front in the past few years. He is in many respects a good captain. Were
it not for ill health at times, he would be great. Irwin is quiet and
gentlemanly on the ball field, but he can stick out as long as any other
man, when occasion requires. He has handled his men in great shape, and
should be given lots of credit for the fine showing made by his nine.
Irwin has brought the "Phillies" to the
front so rapidly that it wouldn't surprise me a bit to see him land them
number one one of these days.
In regard to the great captains of the country, I would
like to say a word about John Morrill, of the Boston nine.
During the winter, and more particularly during my last
visit to Boston, I heard in certain quarters that Morrill and Kelly were
not good friends. This statement is false in every particular. Morrill and
I are, and always have been, the very best of friends. I did not know
Morrill very well until I joined the Boston club. I found him a pleasant,
affable gentleman, and I do not think a man ever played ball in the Boston
nine who doesn't say the same thing. It was also said that there was
rivalry between Morrill and Kelly; it was hitting that Morrill wanted to
be manager and captain, and that Kelly wanted the same positions. This is
also silly and false. From the day that I was appointed captain of the
Boston club, John Morrill did everything in his power to make my regime a
success. I wasn't any more anxious then to be captain than I am now. But I
had to take that which was thrust upon me. John Morrill knows this as well
as I do. If Morrill was jealous, then he had a peculiar way of showing it.
He exerted himself in every conceivable manner to help me out. He did so
many times, and I would indeed be ungrateful if I did not fully appreciate
his worth, both as a man and as a ball player.
There are few players in this country who are as well
posted on the rules of base ball as John Morrill. He doesn't have a great
deal to say, perhaps, but he keeps up an awful thinking all the time. As a
baseman he has but one superior, to my mind, and that one is A. C. Anson.
Morrill is a careful man, and saves the Boston club a good many dollars in
the course of a year, as a manager. He is worth a load of money to the
Boston management, and I think the three magnates appreciate his worth. If
they don't, they make a very great mistake. Morrill is a good manager, and
a first-class captain. He handles his men in good shape, and treats one
and all justly and honestly.
Now I have all these men in mind, when I say that A. C.
Anson is the best field captain we have in this country. I worked under
him for several years, and know of just what stuff he is made. Anson was
born in Iowa, and thirty-five years ago. He's a giant, standing six feet
two inches tall, and weighing, when in good condition, just about two
hundred and twenty pounds. His long connection with the Chicago club has
made him famous in every city in this country.
He made his first trial at base ball in 1871, and was a
success from the start. He's been at it ever since. Since coming into the
league, he has made the best record of any man at batting. He has been
first three times; second, three times; fourth, twice; fifth, twice, and
sixth once. Isn't that a record for a man to feel proud of? He has had the
championship in his city for a greater number of years than all the others
combined. Isn't this a record to be proud of?
Why is it that Anson has been so successful? It's a
comparatively easy matter to answer the question. He enthuses his
followers. He doesn't demand it, but does ask politely that every man who
steps on a field shall play ball from beginning to end. If his club is
seven runs ahead in the last inning, he's going to have his men play as
hard as if they were just seven behind. Anson has no favorites. He won't
have any in his club. He treats all men alike. I was as near to him as any
man who ever played ball in the White Stocking nine. Yet never did he show
it, on or off the field. He treated me like the rest, never better, and
once and a while a bit worse. When it was the latter, I thoroughly
Anson is the easiest captain in the league to get along
with, if you mind your own business,— the hardest, if you won't. He
thoroughly believes in discipline.
Sometimes he is apt to be harsh, but when he is it is with
a man whom the other players think is the white-headed boy. He watches
every point in the game. Nothing escapes him. He is working all the time
for success, and, as a result, his men are bound to do the same thing. He
is good-natured, too, even when he is making a great fight. There was
supposed to be some feeling between Anson and myself, but it isn't so.
There never was and never will be.
I remember a little incident that occurred last summer,
which tickled him so that he was good-natured for days afterwards. I made
a base hit, and I think there was only one out. I stole second, and the
next batter bunted the ball to Williamson, and the latter picked it up and
sent it to Anson. We needed the run badly, and I was also very tired in
the bargain. So I started to run to third, but cut across the diamond in
my haste, and making a long slide, reached the home plate before the ball
arrived. Anson was very mad, or appeared to be, but I could see that he
was grinning. He couldn't help it. He was reminded of old times. He rushed
up to Phil Powers and made a great kick. Powers declared me out, but, as a
matter of fact, I wasn't. He didn't know whether I had touched third bag
or not. Anson chuckled grimly, and returned to the first bag. After the
game he said:
"Well, Kel, you didn't get there after all, did you?
I'm surprised that you would attempt anything so dishonest."
"So am I," I replied, "but were it not for
you and Chicago, I would lever try things of that sort. When I did it
first you thought it was great. It tickled you immensely. You can't go
back on what you have said in the past, can you?"
"Well, it's just here, Kel. It was all right in
Chicago, but times have changed since then. I'm watching you all the time
when we're playing, Kel, and I'm willing to say that you keep me thinking.
But, old man, do you know what I felt when you stole across the diamond? I
felt like shouting, Hurry up, Kel, or Powers will be on."'
took more long chances to win a game of ball than any other captain I ever
saw. I have seen him win a game under very peculiar circumstances.
We were playing against the New Yorks. It was in the last
inning, and the game was five to five. McCormick was pitching and I was
catching. McCormick had pitched in two or three games that week with a
pretty sore arm. He was pretty tired in the last inning, and Anson was the
first to notice it. The umpire called a good ball a strike, and Anson
objected. To his mind, he said, it should have been a ball. He had a
ten-minute argument, and getting near me, gave the tip that I should hurt
my finger. The next ball pitched did that. I had to go in the
dressing-room, and it was fully ten minutes before I could show up. In the
meantime Fred Pfeffer had been hurt by a pitched ball in the practicing,
and as a result, there was almost half an hour's delay. Mac braced up and
felt pretty good again. He pitched a great inning, and then we made one
run in the next. We had won the game. If McCormick had not got that rest,
we would have been slaughtered.
On another occasion we were two runs behind the Detroits.
A man was on second, and a base hit was sent into the field, which would
have allowed him to score. But he didn't. He tripped when he reached
third, and got mixed up with the bag. That is just what Anson wanted him
to do. Then the man on first stole second, and a base hit brought in two
runs. A couple of sacrifice hits just won that game.
He has tried and invented more schemes to win games than
any player living. He will advise his men to steal bases, and will
encourage them if they fail.
"Never mind, old fellow," he will say, "you made a great
bluff at it. You'll get it the next time, you bet."
He never discourages a player, and when a young man comes
into the club, he treats him like a younger son until the young man gets
fresh, and then is sat down on very, very hard. As a result, the players
are always working hard to win the love of the old man. When they make a
brilliant play, he is the first one to come forward and say something
about it. When a poor play is made does he kick? Not at all. He simply
tells the man who makes the error that mistakes will happen, but cautions
him to try and be a little more careful.
There isn't any doubt about his standing, at all. He is
the greatest captain in the league. He plays just as hard to win
exhibition games from minor clubs as he does to win the league
championship games. I talked with Walt Williams, the well-known
"monopole" agent in the Hoffman House, at the close of the
season of '87. Mr. Williams is a Chicago man, and knows Anson very well.
He said, "Well, Kel, Anson couldn't win this year,
could he? He cannot win with an indifferent nine."
"That's so," I replied, "but he can make
nine poor players go on the field and make them play a stiffer game of
ball than any man living."
Anson, I really believe, can take nine raw men who never
saw a ball game, and in two months he will make ball players of them. He
is a good fellow, a staunch friend, and I hope he will be for many years
to come, what he is today, the greatest base ball captain in this country.
There is lots of luck about base ball. There isn't any
doubt about that. This factor—for it is a factor—enters largely into
the game. Sometimes we see the giant club of the league fall before the
weakest clubs. Yet the very next day the tables will be turned. This is
due to several causes. For instance, a club is apt to be in great
condition as a whole one day, the next some one or two men are apt to be
badly broken up. A base ball player is a tough, hardy individual as a
rule, but he cannot stand any more than two ordinary horses, although he
is generally supposed to.
A player cannot offer illness as a plea if he plays a weak
game of ball. If he does, nobody will believe him. He must play a good,
strong game, day after day, be he healthy or ill. Now, if one man is badly
broken up, the result is that the whole club soon becomes demoralized. Six
men cannot win a game, seven cannot, eight cannot, neither can nine,
sometimes. I have known instances when it was absolutely necessary for the
umpire to move his trunk, so to speak, into the club he works for, and
help his players to win a victory. It requires ten good, healthy men to
win a game of this sort. But as a rule, nine men are quite sufficient. But
they must be healthy, and in good condition, or they cannot win, even if
luck is with them. What I want to say is this: To be successful, and win
games, there must be nine men in a club who are working and striving
shoulder to shoulder, on a steady march to victory. There must be no
dissensions, no petty jealousies, no malice, no spite of any sort. The men
must be good friends, and have things so arranged that one man stands
perfectly willing to help another. That's just the secret of the success
of the Chicago club. Captain Anson has his players well in hand. He makes
them companionable, treats one man no better than another, and always
tries to make them very best of friends.
One reason for the failure of other clubs, is the ill
feeling in the ranks. Base ball players sometimes are as difficult to
handle as actors. One player discovers another receives a few dollars more
salary than he receives. He thinks he is far more valuable to the club,
and he goes to the manager and tells him what he thinks. The manager tries
to pacify him, but doesn't succeed. The player begins to be jealous, then
he makes up his mind to let the club "hustle for itself." He
will play for himself, and play for a record. Another player may have
another slight grievance, and he also goes to the manager. The latter does
the best he can, but he cannot perform impossible things; the result is,
there is another dissenting element in the club; there is another record
player. It's little things of this sort which makes the "grand stand
player." They make impossible catchers, and when they get the ball
they roll all over the field.
Is it necessary to do this latter feat?
Well, sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't.
As a rule, it is done just to win the applause of the
grand stand. I have no regard for such players. Possibly because I cannot
perform the "feat" myself. It's a pretty difficult matter for me
to catch a high fly, anyway. I never practiced the rolling on the ground
part of it. If I did, I have an idea that I would drop the ball, and then
the "grand stand" would make it very warm for me for a few
You can depend upon it, that it takes just nine healthy,
peaceable men, who are playing together, for each other and for the good
of the club they work for, to win a game of ball.
I have seen clubs in that condition. When the Chicago club
came to Boston, at near the close of the season of 1883, we found the
Bostons in this condition. The home club was playing a faultless game.
They were in great trim. They were batting well, playing a great fielding
game, ran bases in good shape, and had a get-there air of confidence which
would demoralize almost any club. On the other hand, the Chicagos were
pretty well broken up. "Silver" Flint had a broken finger, and
couldn't catch. I was also troubled with a broken finger, and every time I
caught a ball it seemed as though my right hand would drop off. Neither
Corcoran nor Goldsmith were in good condition, and they didn't pitch
anywhere near the game they were capable of doing. Anson went in to catch,
and so did Williamson. When we came to Boston, we had only ten games to
play: four in Boston, three in
Providence, and three in New York. We led the league by four games. We
knew that if we finished in Boston all right, that we would make a strong
fight for the pennant. Anson never encouraged the boys so in his life. But
we had a good nine, in great condition, to oppose us, and we couldn't do
impossible things. The Boston nine was made up of Whitney and Buffinton,
pitchers; Hines and Hackett, catchers; Morrill, Burdock and Sutton, on the
bases; Wise, short-stop; while Hornung, Smith and Radford were in the
What great excitement there was on the South End grounds
those closing days. How the boys did guy Anson, and I came in for my share
of it. I never thought then that I would at a future time be a member of
the nine I was fighting against, tooth and nail.
was a good nine, and the games were won for several reasons: one, because
the Chicagos were pretty well broken up; the wonderful pitching of big Jim
Whitney and Buffinton; and the most important reason of all, because the
Bostons played better ball and made more runs. Guess that's the best way
out of it. You all know how great the excitement was in Boston, at the
time. Boston deserved the honor. The boys won that pennant fairly and
squarely. We accepted defeat like philosophers, and made up our minds to
even things up at some future day. Well, the four games we lost at Boston,
demoralized us. We couldn't do anything with New York or Providence, and
that settled it.
I had a very curious experience with a Boston gambler at
that time, which is worth recalling now. This fellow came to me in the
corridor of the United States Hotel the night after the first game.
"Kelly," he said, "I have it on pretty good
authority that Chicago is going to throw the championship to Boston this
year. Is it so?"
I looked at him for a moment, and thought perhaps that he
was joking. I sized him up, and then said to him:
"You had better ask Anson. He knows more about it
than I do."
"Look here, Kelly," the fellow replied,
"what Anson knows in regard to this affair, doesn't matter. You
fellows can win it, if you want to. There isn't any doubt about that, in
my mind. Now, I'm in this thing to make money, and I am willing to help
you do the same. I understand that you are to catch in the coming games.
If you will promise me that the Bostons will win, I will give you $2,500.
You can fix the pitchers."
The proposition stunned me for a moment. Anson was in the
office. I called him over, and told him what the man had said. He just
stood there like a dummy, but looked as though he would like to be present
somewhere else. I thought Anson would get mad, but he didn't. He said,
"My friend, you cannot buy the Chicago club. There isn't money enough
in Boston for that. Now, I will give you a straight tip. If we can win, we
are going to. We're going to make the great fight of our lives. I heard,
on the very best authority, tonight, that the Bostons were going to do the
same thing. One thing I will admit. This week settles whether it will be
Boston and Chicago, or Chicago and Boston. Good-night, sir. I'll play you
a game of billiards, Kel."
The man looked as though he wished he were dead.
A great many people in this lovely country of ours, have
an idea that the gamblers run base ball, and that a player can easily be
bought, one way or the other. This is the most absurd idea imaginable. To
be sure, there is more or less betting in every game which attracts
sporting men. You will find this the ease, from the third-class races at
Clifton to the swell races of the Country Club. But on one thing I will
risk everything I have in the world: there is no dishonesty about base
The games are played for all they are worth; and of the
many players at present in the league, I am sure there is not one
dishonest one. There may have been a few in the past. Let us thank God
that there are none in the present, and hope that there won't be in the
The various base ball managers throughout the country pay
a large sum of money annually to their players. They pay enough for them
to be honest. They are honest. Any time you ever hear a man speak about
base ball, and say that it is a dishonest game, you can set him down as
being either a fool or an idiot.
This is gospel truth.
Before proceeding any further, I want to tell you a little
incident which occurred coming from New York to Washington, some time
since. I sat with a friend, a few seats in the rear of a young man who was
made up as a dude. A little five-year-old boy sat with his mother on the
opposite side of the pull-man.
"What does you call him, mamma?"
"That, my child, is a young man."
"Isn't dat what you call a dude, mamma?"
"Hush, my child; yes, that's a dude."
"So, 'ees a dude, mamma? But, mamma, who made
"Hush, hush, my child; God made him."
"Oh! yes. Mamma, God likes to have fun, sometimes,
This isn't base ball, but, like what I've said about the
men who wager money on ball games, it's gospel truth. Marshal P. Wilder
has already claimed this story as his.
I shall not attempt to tell of how games were won season
after season. Some day, perhaps, I shall. Even if I felt disposed to do so
now, it would require a book almost three times the size of the one I am
presenting to the public. Then the championship games are of such a recent
date, that many of you know almost as much about them as the author of
I have several times referred to the Boston club, and to
the Modern Athens. While a member of the Chicago club, I always held a
high opinion of the Hub, and of the boys who played ball in its club.
It was a strange fact, but nevertheless a true one, that
Boston always played a stronger game against Chicago than any club in this
country. I have, on a number of occasions, tried to find a satisfactory
meaning for this, but after considerable thought, finally arrived at
To begin with, there was always great rivalry between the
two clubs. Boston might play a miserable game in Boston, with some of the
weakest clubs in the league. The next week, or the next day, perhaps,
Chicago would come along and expect to win an easy series of victories.
Well, the Chicago club would have to fight every inch of the game to win,
if they did win.
Some of the most exciting games I ever participated in
were played in Boston. Many and many a time have the Boston boys been all
broken up before the arrival of the Chicago nine, but somehow or other
they would brace up sufficiently to give Anson and his men a very warm
It was the same in Chicago. The White Stockings might be
playing bad ball until Boston would arrive. Then they would go on the
field and play a perfect game. Why, it would be almost impossible to get a
ball by that infield, even if it was shot forth from the mouth of a
I have another reason for the fine play between these two
clubs. You see, the people who go to the ball grounds enter into the
spirit of the game. They make up their minds to see some fun when Boston
and Chicago come together. Well, they generally see it. They expect and
want lots of kicking. They generally get it, some time or other before the
game closes. They want to do lots of shouting, and they have their way.
They encourage the players, especially the home players, at every possible
opportunity. A play that wouldn't receive any attention with another club,
is greeted with hearty cheers if the play is against Chicago.
What is the result?
The men play better ball on both sides. The home players
are on the qui vive, and play all the ball they know how. The visiting
players get mad, because they have an idea that they should get a little
of the applause. Well, they just grit their teeth, and swear under their
breaths that they are going to win the game, anyhow. So, you see, it's a
pretty even thing, any way you look at it. As a result, the public see
some wonderfully good games of ball.
I have talked with John Morrill several times about this. He holds a
similar opinion to mine. He says Boston always plays a better game against
Chicago than against any other city. On the other hand, I know that
Chicago, even when broken up, will play a strong game with Boston. For
one, I am very glad that there is such a strong rivalry between the two
cities. It adds interest to the games, and makes them as exciting to the
men on the field as
to the spectators.
I always had a regard for Boston, and the people who saw
the games in the Hub. This was on account of the treatment I always
received at the South End grounds. Sometimes, perhaps, I would be
"guyed" as strongly even as Anson, but, as a rule, I always
received the very best treatment. This is saying a great deal, considering
the fact that I was a member of a visiting club, and had the reputation of
being a tricky man on the field. How a Boston audience would shout and
roar, with mingled feelings of anger and joy, when I would cut the third
bag on my way home. It almost reminded one of hundreds of insane people
let loose. Yet, if I made a good play in the next inning, it would be
greeted with shouts of honest applause. In that respect, Boston leads the
base ball cities of the country. The spectators are more fair minded, and
will applaud the visiting players heartier than in any other city in this
country. I've been to them all, and know just what I'm talking about. It's
a great city. It's a great base ball city. I am more than proud to be a
member of the Boston nine. It makes me happy to feel that I'm Kelly of
Boston, instead of Kelly of somewhere else.
I never imagined, however, that I would be a member of the
Boston nine. Yet, at the close of the season of 1886, I had some trouble
with the Chicago management. I felt that Messrs. Spalding & Co. had
not treated me fairly. I told President Spalding as much when the season
closed. He smiled, and regarded it as a Kelly joke. He said he guessed
when the next season came around he would have things so arranged that I
would be a member of the Chicago club. I said to him:
Spalding, at the close of the season I'm going up to Hyde Park, in New
York, for the winter. My brother-in-law has a farm there. If I'm not a
member of some other club next season, you will find that farming is good
enough for me during the summer. I will not play again in the Chicago
club, under any circumstances, and don't you forget it."
Well, I meant just what I said. After leaving Mr.
Spalding, almost the first man I met was Nat Goodwin, the Boston actor.
Nat and I were always great friends, and had been for several years. He
was playing in Chicago at the time. He invited me around to his rooms in
the Palmer House. Naturally enough, I told him of the conversation I had
just had with Mr. Spalding. Goodwin heard it all, and then said:
"Kel, don't play in Chicago. You stick to what you
"But where would be the best city for me to
play?" I inquired.
"The best city in the country for you to play ball,
Kel, is in Boston.
You hang out, and I will make an even bet that you will be
a member of the Boston club next season."
We had quite a long conversation, and I promised Goodwin
that if it could be arranged, I would gladly go to Boston the next season.
I think that when Nat and his manager, George Floyd, reached Boston, they
saw the Boston managers, and told them what I had said. I met Goodwin in
New York in November, I think it was, and he told me it was all right. He
said I would be in Boston next year, if money would buy my release. I
thought it was all right then, because I didn't have any idea that so much
money would be paid for the release of a player as was paid for mine.
About the 1st of December, '86, I wrote from Hyde Park to
Mr. Spalding. The newspapers had been saying some pretty hard things about
me, and one or two of them printed interviews with Spalding, in which he
said a number of things which were more than unfair. In this letter, I
told him that I would not play in Chicago; that I never had been under any
obligations to the club, as I had always worked hard for what I got. I
wrote again, the latter part of the month, and in return I received a
letter from President Spalding, in which he denied several interviews
alleged to have come from him.
For the time being, that ended our correspondence.
Without any knowledge on my part, Mr. Billings went to
work on the Boston end, and began making overtures to Mr. Spalding. The
latter refused the first offer of $5,000 for my release. Then Mr. Billings
raised the amount to an even $9,000. Mr. Spalding replied that if he would
make it $10,000, and wait until the middle of March, to give him a chance
to interview the directors, he thought it would be all right. But Mr.
Billings wasn't waiting. He wrote Mr. Spalding that he would give $10,000
for Kelly's release, but that the offer might be accepted at once. This
offer caught Spalding, and he didn't delay any in replying, "All
Armed with Mr. Spalding's letter, Mr. Billings,
accompanied by W. D. Sullivan, then the sporting editor of the Boston
Globe, came to Poughkeepsie, N. Y., on Feb. 14, 1887. I drove over from
Hyde Park, and met them at the Nelson House. I had just about one hour's
talk with Mr. Billings. When he left the hotel, he had my name signed to a
contract. I was a member of the Boston club, and I haven't had any reason
to regret my choice. At that time I had an idea that I would rather play
on the New York nine. In fact, I was offered $7,750 to get my release from
Chicago, and a promise of $5,500 salary in the bargain.
Well, Spalding wouldn't allow me to go to New York,
anyhow, and, on the whole, I thank him for it. It would be impossible for
a man to receive better treatment than was accorded me in Boston.
A few days after all the arrangements were made, I
received a characteristic letter from Mr. Spalding. It is certainly worth
a place in this book, although he does rub it in to me more than he
should. Mr. Spalding evidently forgot that I always worked for the
interest of the Chicago club. I played ball for the nine when so ill, that
to move about caused the greatest suffering. But never mind that; I'm away
from the club. It won't kill either of us. As Mr. Spalding says, somebody
will always spring up, and take our places when we disappear. That's
gospel truth. The Chicago club got along nicely without me last year, and
I got along without Chicago. But enough; here is his letter:—
Chicago, Feb. 19,1887.
M. J. Kelly, Hyde Park, N. Y.
Dear Sir:—I am in receipt of your picture, in costume
and batting position, and the same has been handed to our engraver, with
instructions to get out as good a cut as possible for the forthcoming
I congratulate you on the magnificent salary that I
understand you will receive from the Boston club next season, and I hope
you will not disappoint them, but will make yourself not only worthy of
the amount that you will receive from them, but also of the very large
bonus that they have paid the Chicago club for your release. I am just
in receipt of a letter from Mr. Billings, from which I quote as follows:
"Kelly did not say a word against you; said the
Chicago club was a good one to get money of, when wanted. Anson worked
him pretty hard sometimes, when not in condition, and there is where the
trouble lies, I think."
I am very glad to know that you have no personal feeling
towards me, for I certainly have none towards you, and I do not believe
you can truthfully say that either myself or the Chicago club have taken
any advantage of you, but have always treated you right and fair. I have
placed no credence in the rumors and alleged interviews, that have been
published in the New York papers, from time to time, knowing, from my
own experience, how these interviews are manufactured. As you will, no
doubt, be captain of the Boston nine, you will find it necessary, or at
least it will be advisable, to set examples to your men in the way of
habits and deportment, that will be an incentive for them to follow....
Wishing you every prosperity and success in your new
position, I am,
note: The book concludes on page
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