On this day in 1887, the Chicago White Stockings sold Mike “King” Kelly to the Boston Beaneaters for $10,000 – or roughly half of what Miguel Cabrera will earn per plate appearance this season. It was a record sum at the time, and shocked the baseball world.
Kelly was a revolutionary catcher, outfielder and manager who helped to popularize the catcher’s mitt, chest protector, hit and run and the hook slide. The record-setting sale price helped turn Kelly into a pop culture icon. His style of play inspired America’s first hit pop record, “Slide, Kelly, Slide!” and he went on to have a brief acting career in vaudeville theater prior to his death in 1894. Kelly was also one of the first players to popularize autographing. He is considered a possible inspiration for the classic baseball poem “Casey at the Bat” and was the first ballplayer to publish his own autobiography.
Over the course of his 16 year career, Kelly batted .306, collected 1,813 hits and scored 1,357 runs. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1945 by the Veterans Committee.