This article was written by Bill Nowlin
On September 23, 1913, the Boston Globe reported that Edward Kelly was one of 37 ballplayers placed on the reserved list by the Boston Red Sox. Kelly was a right-hander, born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, on December 10, 1888, and standing an even 6 feet tall, with a reported weight of 173 pounds.
His father, Patrick, and mother Elizabeth, both immigrated to the United States from Ireland, and they had eight children, all boys. Ed was the fifth of the eight. Patrick, the proprietor of a saloon, was working as a laborer in Pawtucket by the time of the 1910 census. For some reason he moved to Spokane, Washington, and was listed as a laborer in that city’s 1911 city directory. Ed himself was listed in the 1912 Spokane directory as a cement worker. He played semipro baseball in Spokane’s City League. Beginning with the 1914 directory, Ed’s occupation was listed as “baseball player.”
On Saturday, September 30, 1911, on the next-to-last day of the season, Ed Kelly made his professional debut for Spokane in the Northwestern League, against the visiting Portland team. He pitched the full nine innings, giving up 18 hits in a 10-3 defeat.
His first full years in pro ball were pitching for the Walla Walla Bears (champions in the four-team Western Tri-State League) in 1912 and the first half of 1913. No stats can be found for the 1912 season, but Kelly was 11-9 before he went to the Seattle Giants during the 1913 season, joining the six-team Northwestern League, a Class B circuit with teams in Spokane, Tacoma, Portland, Victoria, and Vancouver as well as Seattle. Seattle, under manager Frank “Tealey” Raymond, finished third, 14 games behind the first-place Vancouver Beavers. The Giants had won the pennant the year before, with John “Shad” Barry at the helm, succeeded by Raymond during the course of the season. Kelly was 9-7 on the mound, but only 3-for-44 at the plate (.068).
Kelly made his own way to Hot Springs, Arkansas, in February 1914, and when Red Sox manager Bill Carrigan and 10 others of the Red Sox party arrived at 10 minutes before midnight on the 26th, he was there to greet them at the Hotel Eastman, listed as one of the team. The Boston Globe report of Carrigan’s arrival termed Kelly “a young pitcher who hails from Spokane and who comes highly recommended to the Boston skipper.” Kelly was 25 at the time. No trace of him can be found in US Census records for 1900, 1910, or 1920. He’d arrived in Hot Springs on Monday, the 23rd, and was further described in the brief note in the Globe, which said he “is a husky looking youth and is confident he is going to make good under Carrigan. Kelly worked out with the Highlanders, Braves, Trolley Dodgers, Naps, and free lances at Whittington Park this afternoon and handled himself as if he is going to stick.”
Kelly was one of seven new pitchers trying out for Carrigan’s club and, according to the Globe’s Tim Murnane, four of them made it to the last day of the exhibition season: “[Rankin] Johnson from Syracuse, Zeizer from Lowell [Murnane was referring to Matt Zieser], Kelly from Seattle, and [Fritz] Coumbe, a young left-hander from the New York State League.” In a bow toward political correctness (where were these principles when Jackie Robinson tried out for the Red Sox in 1945?), Murnane added, “Garlow, the Indian, also will be retained as it is the proper thing to have a full-blooded Indian with every first-class major league.” [Globe, April 12, 1914]
Kelly appeared in the first exhibition game of the season, a 10-0 shutout of the Arkansas University team, which had come over from Fayetteville on March 17. Johnson, Kelly, and Zieser each threw three innings. Kelly struck out four and gave up two hits. He was 0-for-1 at the plate. He pitched in some intrasquad games and news reports had him looking good.
Garlow never made it to the majors, but Johnson, Zieser, Coumbe and Kelly all appeared in two or more games for the 1914 Red Sox, Zieser in just two games and Kelly in only three. Appraising the four young pitchers, Murnane wrote of our subject, “Ed Kelly from Seattle has showed up well in every game that he has been tried out in. The others all claim that Kelly ‘has something.’ He is a natural righthand workman, with moderate speed, fine command, and if he has ‘something,’ as the catchers claim, why then the Boston fans will yell for Kell.” [Ibid]
Saying he was from Seattle reflected the year he spent with the Giants, just as the other descriptor (“Johnson from Syracuse”) referred to the teams for which the pitchers had previously thrown.
It didn’t take long for Kelly to see action. The Red Sox opened the 1914 campaign at home on April 14, hosting the Washington Senators. Walter Johnson pitched for the visitors, and Ray Collins started for Boston. All the scoring happened in the third inning, when the Senators scored three times. Kelly came in to pitch the top of the ninth, and his first major-league appearance was flawless, three outs. The Globe said he “worked naturally and got off without a hit being scored on him.”
Kelly gave up no hits his second time out, a brief two-thirds of an inning against Philadelphia, and walked one. It was April 20, at Fenway, against the Philadelphia A’s. The Red Sox had led the game 1-0 from the second inning through the seventh but starter Collins faltered in the eighth, walking two and giving up a couple of doubles. Two runs scored, making it 2-1 for Philadelphia. The Sox came right back in the bottom of the eighth, tying the game when – with two outs – Hal Janvrin stole home on relief pitcher Eddie Plank.
Neither team scored in the ninth, but Collins was taken out for a pinch-hitter. Hugh Bedient came on in relief and, one way or another, the first four batters reached safely. One was thrown out on the basepaths, but then Bedient walked the next man, too. Three runs were in, and two men were on base. Carrigan pulled Bedient and brought in Kelly, who loaded the bases by walking the first man he faced. The Washington Post‘s only comment was that, like Bedient before him, Kelly was “also wild.” Both inherited runners plus his own scored and the Red Sox lost the game, 8-2. They lost the day’s second game, 6-0.
The day after the April 20 doubleheader, the two teams played to a 1-1 tie, Dutch Leonard pitching for Boston and Bob Shawkey for Philadelphia. Both went the distance; the game was called on account of darkness after 13 innings. Then on April 22, they battled to another tie, this one a higher-scoring affair, 9-9. The Athletics had scored four runs in the top of the seventh to take a 9-5 lead, but Boston put four runs across in the bottom of the eighth to tie it again. The game was called after eight so that the teams could catch the 7:00 PM train. The Sox were headed for Washington and Philadelphia was heading home. At the end of the fifth, when the score had been 5-5, the announcement had been made that the game would be halted after eight regardless of the score. Kelly’s third major-league outing was to retire the A’s in order in the top of the eighth and final frame, striking out two and getting another batter to foul out to catcher Hick Cady. “Kelly pitched the eighth inning for Boston and looked better than any of his predecessors,” observed the Post. But he wasn’t allowed to bat. Henriksen pinch-hit for Kelly in the bottom of the eighth, and struck out. Kelly would have been on tap for the win had the Sox pushed across one more run, but they did not.
The train left the station, and Kelly was on it – but for whatever reason he never appeared in another big-league ballgame. The conditional deal the Sox had struck with Seattle was to pay them in two installments, and the second of the two installments came due on May 15. Boston management decided it wasn’t worth paying the second installment to keep Kelly with the club and the May 12 newspapers reported that he had been released back to Seattle. One imagines he’d hoped for another shot with the Red Sox, but he never returned, either to Boston or any other big-league club. Kelly nevertheless has a lifetime 0.00 ERA. In facing 11 batters, he allowed one hit, walked one, and struck out four. In the field, he had one chance and recorded an assist; he goes down in history with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. At the plate, he never had an opportunity to bat (though until this biography was written, the official record showed him as batting once and striking out.)
The only time he was due up to bat was that time in the bottom of the eighth inning of the April 22 game, but all the Boston papers of the day concur that Olaf Henriksen pinch-hit for him and Henriksen stuck out. The official record had shown Kelly issuing only one walk, but in fact he walked one man in the April 20 game and another in the April 22 game. So we’ve burdened him with another base on balls, but relieved him of the shame of having struck out in his only major-league at-bat.
Kelly traveled back across the country to Seattle, and appeared in 33 games, pitching a total of 239 innings and posting a record of 15-10, though teammate Wheezer Dell’s 21 wins topped the Northwestern League. This year presented more of a pennant race than had 1913 and Seattle finished second, only three games behind Vancouver, which had renamed itself from the Bees to the Beavers.
Seattle captured the Northwestern League flag in 1915, and Kelly seemed to have started the season with them, with a record of 4-6, but perhaps didn’t fit in their plans. He signed with the Spokane Indians on June 16, still in the same league but now, according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, based in his home town. He started the same day he signed, and lost 3-0 to Joe “Iron Man” McGinnity. Kelly beat Vancouver, 4-1, in front of the Spokane fans, but then lost to them on July 19 in Vancouver, 6-5, hammered for four runs in the bottom of the ninth. For Bob Wicker’s Indians, he was 7-10. In what may have been his last pro ball outing, he was routed in the first inning as Tacoma scored 13 runs; Kelly had reportedly given up five hits and two bases on balls. One wonders if he perhaps had suffered injury, or illness. Northwestern League aficionado Jim Price says that, in addition to former Cubs standout pitcher Wicker, “Spokane had excellent pitching led by Win Noyes and Pat Callahan, so Kelly had little chance at taking an important role.” [E-mail correspondence from Jim Price, April 7, 2009]
The Vancouver Champions (sporting their third team name in three seasons) dropped to fourth place. Seattle, playing under Raymond again, beat the Tacoma Tigers by three games for the pennant. The Victoria franchise had shifted to Aberdeen in midseason, and then folded on August 1, disbanding with the league’s permission. Pitcher Walter Mails struck out an even 250 opponents to lead the Giants. A playoff series was held against Tacoma, and Seattle had won three games to Tacoma’s two but a serious dispute broke out during the sixth game and the series was never brought to conclusion. Since Kelly had moved to Spokane in midseason, he was not involved in the dispute.
When 1916 got under way, both Tacoma and Seattle were back for more Northwestern League play but Butte and Great Falls were two new franchises, with first-place Spokane and last-place Vancouver rounding out the league. Ed Kelly was no longer in the league, nor reported in any capacity in organized baseball. Almost nothing further is known about him, in baseball or otherwise.
At some point, Kelly moved to the coal mining region of Carbon County in south central Montana, not far from the northeastern corner of Yellowstone National Park. He was employed as a miner and died on November 4, 1928 – at age 39 – in the county seat, Red Lodge, following surgery for an unspecified illness.
Had he arrived at Red Lodge as early as 1917? If so, he might have witnessed the horsewhipping of the Red Lodge leader of the Industrial Workers of the World – the Wobblies – at Billings. We may never know. We do know that on June 5, 1917, he registered for the draft in Deer Lodge County, Montana. At the time he had a wife and one child and worked as a “printer electrician” for a company in the area. He was listed as tall, medium build, with brown eyes and dark hair.
Interestingly, at the time of the 1910 Census, there was a Frank Kelly in Deer Lodge at the Montana State Prison. He was born in Rhode Island and was 26, meaning he was born around 1884. Ed Kelly was born in 1888. It’s possible that this was Ed’s older brother. Perhaps they traveled out there, and Frank got himself in a little trouble. Frank was the only Kelly in the entire state of Montana who was picked up by the Census as native to Rhode Island; his father was from Maine and his mother from Rhode Island.
The sources for this article are listed within the story. Thanks to Jim Price for considerable Northwestern League information, and to Rick Harris, Len Levin, and Skip Tuetken.