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Exhibition Baseball Americana

Mike Kelly (1857–1894). Play Ball: Stories of the Ball Field. Boston: Emmery & Hughes, 1888. Courtesy of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (047.00.00)
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Mike Kelly (1857–1894). Play Ball: Stories of the Ball Field. Boston: Emmery & Hughes, 1888. Courtesy of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (047.00.00)
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Baseball’s First Superstar

He did not hit baseball’s first single, but America’s first hit single was about him. “Slide Kelly Slide” (1892) was the earliest bestselling popular music recording, a celebration of Mike “King” Kelly’s baseball prowess and signature innovation, the hook slide. The son of Irish immigrants, the charismatic, hard drinking hero of the Chicago White Stockings and Boston Beaneaters earned a reputation for exceptional baseball smarts. His ghostwritten autobiography, seen here, was the first of its kind in sports.

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