From Sarah Wexler at The Hardball Times on December 4, 2015:
Michael Joseph “King” Kelly (1857-1894) was a star outfielder/catcher and well-known personality of the late 19th century. He played, captained and managed for many teams throughout his Hall of Fame career, including a brief stint in the short-lived Players’ League. Kelly’s Hall of Fame plaque declares him to have been a “Colorful player and audacious base-runner,” and there exist hundreds of stories–of varying degrees of veracity–of his exploits both on and off the field.
While he was managing in the Players’ League in Cincinnati, Kelly and his ballplayers were regularly arrested for attempting to play baseball on Sundays, violating the city’s blue laws. Once, while playing with Boston, Kelly instructed his teammates, “Let us dress up as old men and beat [Cap] Anson’s colts.” Kelly himself was “made up as an English dude, with flowing [false] whiskers,” while others donned long blouses and clown noses. The Chicago crowd loved it, and Boston indeed was victorious.
Throughout his career, Kelly bent (or straight-up broke) the rules, by, for example, using his revolutionary “hook slide,” or skipping bases on his way home when the umpire wasn’t looking. But then there’s this one oft-repeated Kelly tale, a fanciful display of cleverness and quick thinking that could exist only in the pre-modern era of baseball; one which, supposedly, changed the rules of the game forever. The story is fascinating, but what parts of it–if any–are true?
Originally published: December 4, 2015. Last Updated: December 4, 2015.