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Pocketmags Digital Magazines
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Pocketmags Digital Magazines

SIGN,KELLY, SIGN!

Mike “King” Kelly was baseballʼs first star player, and believed to be the first player targeted by something new to the game: autograph seekers

We don’t really know when someone first decided to give people nicknames or when someone decided it would be a good hobby to collect postage stamps.

But we’re pretty sure we know where the cultural phenomenon of pursuing autographs began.

It was in the late 1880s, and the sought aft er celebrity was one Mike “King” Kelly, of the National League’s Boston Beaneaters. Kelly was baseball’s first matinee idol, the “king” of the game, the inspiration for books, art, song and stage appearances. We might add that he was the game’s first superstar, but the term - and the term “matinee idol” - did not exist then, and baseball was spelled as two words.

Kelly’s best years as a player were spent in Chicago, (two batting titles), where he butted heads withhis manager, Cap Anson, a strict disciplinarian. Even in the 1880s, Anson could be called “old school.” Finally, Anson and team owner Albert Spalding would take no more, and Kelly was sold to Boston in 1887 for $10,000 - an unheard of amount of money at the time. He was immediately branded “The $10,000 Beauty,” and the “King of Baseball.” (Sometimes he was called the “$15,000 Beauty” by adding his loft y salary to the total).

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Beckett Vintage Collector Dec/Jan 2019,