Mike Kelley major-league baseball career was brief — just one season.
After spending the 1899 season with Louisville Colonels of the National League — Hall of Famer Honus Wagner was one of his teammates — Kelley embarked on a nearly 50-year career in minor-league baseball as a manager and owner that made him one of the most important figures in 20th century baseball.
In 1901, he joined the St. Paul team in the Western League. The next year the St. Paul team joined the newly formed American Association and Kelley became the player/manager. He continued his playing career until 1908.
Kelley managed the St. Paul team for 18 seasons. During that time, the Saints won five American Association league titles. Three of those St. Paul teams are ranked among the top 100 minor-league baseball teams of all-time, according to www.milb.com: the 1920 Saints, who had a 115-49 record, are ranked No. 6 on the Top 100 list; the 1922 Saints, who won 107 games, are ranked No. 88; and the 1923 Saints, who won 111 games are ranked No. 91.
Following the 1923 season, he purchased the Minneapolis Millers in 1923. He managed the Millers for eight seasons, before concentrating on his front office duties. As a manager in the minor leagues, his teams won 2,390 games in 30 seasons. Only two other minor-league managers have won more games.
With Kelley in the front office, the Millers won American Association titles in 1932 and 1935. Kelley owned and operated the Millers until April of 1946, when he sold the franchise to the New York Giants of the National League. Kelley was one of the last independent operators in minor-league baseball.
The Minneapolis Tribune wrote in 1959, "Although he operated in the minor leagues, he was influential in the majors. Many major-league owners sought and accepted his advice in important matters. He was regarded as one of baseball's shrewdest traders. Regularly Kenesaw Mountain Landis, then high commissioner of baseball, called him to Chicago to discuss important decisions before taking action."
Teams: St. Paul Saints, Minneapolis Millers.