Sep 10, 2015

Former New York Giants Four Time Pennant Winning Hall of Famer: High Pockets Kelly (1915-1927)

George Lange Kelly known as High Pockets Kelly was born on September 10, 1895 in San Francisco, California.

He joined the New York Giants in 1915, with the exception of eight games in 1917 & missing the 1918 season, he remained there for eleven years. Kelly’s career didn’t take off until 1920 when he became an everyday player. That year he led the N.L. in RBIs with 94, batting .266 with 11 HRs 11 triples & 22 doubles, playing in every season game. High Pockets became Giants manager John McGraw’s main first baseman through the 1926 season.

In 1921 he led the league in HRs (23) and drove in 122 runs (2nd in the NL). He would go on to drive in over 100 runs the next four seasons coming in the league’s top four in that category each time. In his career High Pockets Kelly hit over 40 doubles twice & over 30 doubles six times. Kelly would bat over .300 each year from 1921 through 1926, batting a career high .328 in 1922.

That year he hit 17 HRs with 107 RBIs 33 doubles 12 stolen bases & a .367 on base %. More importantly Kelly was one of the best defensive first baseman in the early part of the 20th century. His positioning & footwork became the standard for first baseman in handling relay throws from the outfield as well.

The great Frankie Frisch "the Fordham Flash" claimed Kelly was the best first baseman he ever seen. Defensively he led the league in put outs & assists three times, and fielding percentage twice (1926 & 1930). He would be among the top three first baseman in fielding eight times.

In 1924 he once again led the league in RBIs (124) while batting .324 with 21 HRs (4th in the NL) 37 doubles (3rd in the NL), nine triples & a career high .371 on base % (7th in the NL). That year he set a record (since tied) where he hit seven HRs in six straight games.

He came in 6th in the league's MVP voting. In 1925 he played at second base when Frankie Frisch got injured, during this time his young replacement at first base Bill Terry emerged on the scene. Terry became a Giants legend & Hall of Famer.

In 1925 Kelly came in third in the league's MVP voting with 20 HRs (6th in the NL) 99 RBIs (10th in the NL) & a .309 average. Post Season: He was part of the Giants Dynasty that won four straight pennants & two World Series titles from 1921-1924. In those four Series he hit only .248 with one HR two doubles 11 RBIs & five walks.

Post Seasons: He drove in four runs in the 1921 Series, having a two hit Game in Game #3. In the final Series game, he reached on an error by the third baseman in the 1st inning and Giants short stop Dave Bancroft scored on the play. It was the only run of the game as the Giants won the clincher to earn the Championship title in the first New York subway series.

In Game #5 of the 1922 World Series, Kelly hit a two run single in the bottom of the 8th inning, putting the Giants ahead after being down 3-2. The run proved to be the game winner as the Giants won the Series in five games for their second straight Championship over the AL New York club.

In Game #1 of the 1924 Series he led off the game with a HR & then broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the 2nd inning sac fly which proved to be the winning run. In one of the highest compliments he could get from his manager, John McGraw said: "Kelly made more key hits for me than any other player."

In 1927 with John McGraw wanting to improve his outfield, High Pockets got traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Edd Roush. Kelly spent four seasons there batting over .290 twice driving in 100 runs for the last time in his career (1929). In 1930 he played with the Chicago Cubs & then after two seasons not playing in the majors he had a brief 64 game stint in Brooklyn with the Dodgers.

After a 16 year career he ended with a .297 batting average, 1778 hits 148 HRs 337 doubles 76 triples 65 stolen bases 1020 RBIs & a .342 on base %. Kelly did make 121 errors at first base (84th all time) but made 14232 put outs (50th all time) with 861 assists (68th all time) posting a .989 fielding %.

In 1973 he was finally elected into the baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown by the Veterans Committee, which included his former team mate Frankie Frisch. For years many believed he was one of the worst players elected into Cooperstown, due to his lifetime stats. Kelly passed away in 1984 at Burlingame, California at the age 89.

He is the brother of Ren Kelly who played one game for the 1923 Philadelphia A’s & a distant cousin of former 1973 New York Met Rich Chiles, who played in just 8 games.


texas online defensive driving said...

I’ve read articles about him before too. He serves an inspiration for people like me who wants to pursue the same field too. He reined the field a long time ago, but the continuous praise he still receives today is a living proof of how great a player he is.

Cliff Blau said...

He's also the nephew of the great Cubs center fielder Bill Lange.