The 100 Greatest Royals of All-Time - #78 Pat Kelly

Trying to get these out quicker so we can actually get them done before next season!

The 78th Greatest Royal is Pat Kelly

Surprisingly, Pat Kelly was not Irish

Pat Kelly was a gifted athlete and a devout Christian who was part of the Royals inaugural team back in 1969. His brother Leroy, was a running back for the Cleveland Browns, and is now enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Pat hailed from Philadelphia and was known by fans as "The Philadelphia Flyer" for his outstanding speed in the outfield and on the basepaths.

Kelly signed with the Minnesota Twins in 1962 out of high school. In 1964 with Wisconsin Rapids, he hit .357 with 16 home runs, 72 walks and 15 stolen bases. The following year at Wilson he hit .283 with a league high 119 walks, while swiping 27 bases. In 1966 in Charlotte, he hit .321 with 52 stolen bases. He seemed like a prototypical leadoff hitter, but the Twins already had a leadoff hitter in 1965 MVP Zoilo Versailles, despite his .319 OBA. Kelly continued to put up great minor league numbers, hitting .286 with 19 stolen bases in half a season with Denver in 1967, and .306 with 38 stolen bases in 1968.

In 1969, the Twins decided to go with young Graig Nettles in the outfield over Kelly and exposed Pat to the expansion draft. The Royals took the speedy outfielder with the 34th pick in the draft and he began his Kansas City career.

Kelly began the season on the bench behind Ed Kirkpatrick, but manager Joe Gordon could not ignore the speed Kelly brought to the table and inserted him in the starting lineup a few weeks into the season. Kelly held his own, but really didn't heat up until June when he lifted his average from .222 to .293 in the course of a month. He was also a great basestealer, swiping 40 bases at a 75% success rate, and he finished fourth in the league in steals as a rookie. He finished his rookie campaign with a respectable .264 average and a 106 OPS+, despite having to miss a few weeks of the season to do military work.

"Pat is a good hitter, a great hustler and a great, great competitor. He is everything a manager wants in a player."
-Denver manager Billy Martin

The Royals went into the 1970 seasons with Kelly firmly established as the everyday leftfielder and leadoff hitter. He got off to a sensational start, hitting .316 by the end of April. He wore down by mid-season though and went through an awful funk in July and April, hitting .155 over those two months. He ended the season with a disappointing .235 average, and his stolen base percentage went down to 68% with 34 swipes in 50 attempts. Nonetheless, he still drew 76 walks, a team high.

Just after the World Series, the Royals dealt Kelly to the Chicago White Sox for 1B Gail Hopkins. I'm not really sure why the deal was made. The Royals had a fine first basemen already in Bob Oliver who was coming off a .260 27 HR 99 RBI season, and Hopkins was very much a Ross Gload-caliber first baseman. The player that replaced Kelly in the outfield was Joe Keough, who had a sensational season in 1970 hitting .322, but in just 183 at bats. He flopped in 1971 while Kelly hit .291 with a .394 OBA in Chicago.

Kelly spent six seasons in Chicago as a very average to above average outfielder, earning an All-Star appearance in 1973. In 1977 he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles where he began to become a part-timer, although he did start three games of the 1979 ALCS, hitting a home run and stealing two bases, and appeared in five games of the 1979 World Series. While with Baltimore, Kelly supposedly had a humorous exchange with manager Earl Weaver that revealed the philosophy of both men. Kelly asked Weaver, "Skip, don't you want me to walk with the Lord?" to which Weaver replied, "I'd rather you walk with the bases loaded."

Kelly retired in 1981 after half a season with Cleveland and became a minister for Lifeline Ministries in Maryland. In 2005, Pat Kelly died of a heart attack at the age of 61.

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