Joe Kelley was a professional baseball player who grew up in Cambridge, MA. Even though he didn’t go to Harvard, he practiced with the Harvard baseball team and eventually went on to play professional baseball. He played for one year with the Boston Beaneaters in 1891. The Boston Beaneaters were the other baseball team from Boston before there ever was the Boston Redsox. After playing one mediocre year in Boston, he went to the Baltimore Orioles, where he really hit his stride. He had a few tricks, one of them being to hide baseballs in the outfield so that when a ball got by him he could just pick up the closest ball he could find and throw it in. Also, he used to keep a small comb and mirror with him during games so he could keep himself well groomed. His many female admirers called him “Handsome Joe Kelley”. He had a batting average over his major league career of .317, with an average of .402 with men on base, a very good percentage. He returned again to play with the Boston team, now named the “Boston Doves”, in 1908 as a player-coach.
His parents Patrick and Ann emigrated to the United States from Ireland to escape the Irish Potato Famine. The Irish Potato Famine refers to the time period in Irish History where there was starvation throughout Ireland because Ireland, at that time largely a poor country, came to rely heavily on the potato crop. Around 1845, a disease struck this crop throughout Ireland and throughout Europe, and led to starvation throughout Ireland. Out of a country of about 8 million, about 1 million starved and about 1.5 million emigrated. Many settled in the major cities in the United States, like Kelley’s parents. Boston and Cambridge became approximately one quarter Irish due to so many coming to escape the Irish Potato Famine.
Joe Kelley was born in 1871, died in 1943, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971.