This Day in Reds History: Joe Kelley was a killer at the plate

Joe Kelley - wikimedia.org

On this day in Reds history, Hall of Famer Joe Kelley died.

On this day in 1913, the Reds bought catcher Mark Stewart from Norfolk in the Virginia League. Stewart had a "Moonlight" Graham-type of career, appearing in only one major league game. Unlike Graham, Stewart did make one plate appearance in his one game.

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On this day in 1943, Hall of Famer and former Red Joe Kelley died in Baltimore at the age of 71. Kelley was one of the game's premier offensive threats while a member of the championship Baltimore clubs of the 1890s. It was a high scoring era -- teams averaged over five runs of the game for the decade and a whopping 7.4 runs per game in 1894 -- but Kelley's numbers are still ridiculous. In 1896, he hit .364/.469/.543, which was good for an OPS+ of "only" 164. He walked 91 times, drove in 100 runs, and scored another 148. None of those numbers led the league, which tells you just how silly baseball must have been back then. Kelley did, however, lead the league in steals with 87. We have no idea how many times he was caught stealing, so we don't have a feel for how efficient he was.

Anyway, Kelley found himself in Cincinnati midway through the 1902 season. He was still a dangerous hitter at that point in time, posting a 140 OPS+ in his half-season in the Queen City. Kelley slipped a bit in 1903 and 1904, posting OPS+ figures of 124 and 122, respectively, for the Reds in those seasons. Unfortunately, as many players in that era did, he fell off a cliff after that. In 1905, at the age of 33, Kelley's OPS+ was only 98. His final season in Cincinnati came in 1906, and he was just a shell of his former self (91 OPS+). Kelley spent the 1907 season in the minors, but managed to return to Boston for a productive 73 games in 1908 before returning to the minors for good in 1909. He retired after the 1910 season. Kelley was not lucky enough to see his induction into the Hall of Fame as the Veteran's Committee didn't get around to selecting him until 1971 . . . When Kelley got married in 1897, he had three Hall of Famers for groomsmen: John McGraw, Wee Willie Keeler, and Hughie Jennings (Wikipedia).

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On this day in 1961, the Reds bought catcher Darrell Johnson from the Phillies.

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On this day in 1970, the Reds sold pitcher Dooley Womack to the Athletics.

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On this day in 1985, former Red Mark Portugal made his major league debut with the Twins at the age of 22. Portugal started 40 games for the Reds, posting a 3.93 ERA (107 ERA+). Though he frequently missed time throughout his career, Portugal was pretty much the definition of an average starting pitcher while on the mound. He was more adept than many pitchers with the bat, winning the Silver Slugger award in 1994 while with the Giants.

Also on this day in 1985, former Red Chris Valaika was born in Santa Monica, CA.

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On this day in 2003, the Reds traded Kent Mercker to the Braves for a player to be named later (Matt Belisle).

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On this day in 2008, the Reds traded Adam Dunn and cash to the Diamondbacks for pitching prospect Dallas Buck and players to be named later (Micah Owings and utility player Wilkin Castillo). Who would you rather have: Adam Dunn or Dave Kingman? For the longest time, I thought Dunn was the better player, no contest, but then he slumped hard in 2011 after years of consistency. Dunn has always been willing to take a walk while Kingman was a true all-or-nothing hacker. Both were poor fielders, but Dunn has taken his defense to new depths in recent years, if the defensive metrics are to be believed. I, for one, am skeptical that a first baseman could possibly cost his team 43 runs as Dunn supposedly did in 2009.

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On this day in 2009, the Reds shipped shortstop Alex Gonzalez to Boston in exchange for outfielder Kris Negron. Do you remember when there were two Alex Gonzalezes in baseball at the same time? They both played shortstop, both were good fielders, both had career OPS+ figures of 79, both played for Toronto at some point in their careers, and their own grandmothers got them confused.

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On this day in 2012, this current iteration of "This Day in Reds History" debuted. It's been a fun first year for me, and I hope it's been fun for you, too.

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