- OF, 3B, SS, 1B, 2B
- December 9, 1871
- 5' 11"
- 190 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 7-27-1891 with BSN
- Hall of Fame:
"Kelley was one of the greatest outfielders of all time. He was rated the kingpin of the Orioles outfield. He covered a lot of ground and was one of the best hitters in the league." - Dutch Brennan, former major league scout
Joe Kelley was a top hitter for a long time, hitting .317 lifetime in the majors. He was frequently among the league leaders in several offensive categories, especially in triples, but rarely led the circuit in any category, which perhaps led to his not being named to the Hall of Fame until many years after his death.
Originally a pitcher, Kelley played for the Lowell Lowells of the New England League in 1891 and was 10-3 while hitting .331 with 21 stolen bases. He reached the majors in the later portion of that season as a 19 year old outfielder. He began 1892 back in the minors with the Omaha Omahogs and hit .330 before being purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Late in the year, he was traded to the Ned Hanlon's Baltimore Orioles for George Van Haltren.
Kelley was the Orioles regular centerfielder in 1893 before being moved to leftfield the next season. That year, he hit .393 and had an on-base percentage over .500 for a 161 OPS+ while scoring 165 runs (but still finishing a distant second behind Billy Hamilton's 192 runs). He had one of the finest days in baseball history on September 3rd, going 9-for-9 in a doubleheader with four doubles and a triple.
Two years later, in 1896, Kelley had a 164 OPS+ with a .364/.469/.543 batting line in a less friendly offensive environment and led the National League with 87 stolen bases. After hitting .352 in his six full seasons with Baltimore, he was sent to the Brooklyn Superbas prior to the 1899 campaign, and the team went on to capture pennants in 1899 and 1900.
After the 1901 season, Kelley jumped to the Baltimore Orioles of the American League. However, after the Orioles were purchased by NL owner John T. Brush, Kelley was released and joined the Cincinnati Reds as player-manager for the next three and a half seasons. After remaining with the club as a player in 1906, he managed the minor league Toronto Maple Leafs in 1907. He returned to the majors for one more year in 1908 as player-manager of the Boston Doves.
Following his big league days, Kelley managed the minor league Toronto Maple Leafs from 1909 to 1914, was a New York Yankees scout in 1915 and 1916, and was a member of the Brooklyn Robins coaching staff in 1926.
Although no player is truly similar to Kelley, the three most similar players (as of October 2008) are all Hall of Famers: Hugh Duffy, Kiki Cuyler and Edd Roush. Duffy was a contemporary.
- NL Stolen Bases Leader (1896)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 5 (1894-1898)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 6 (1893-1897 & 1899)
- 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 2 (1895 & 1896)
- Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1971
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- Joe Kelley