Saturday, April 4, 2009

# 97 -- Tom Kelley

Tom Kelley

Tom Kelley didn't manage the Twins to 2 World Series wins. Tom Kelly did. It's hard to find much information on Tom Kelley beyond what we can see on the back of this card. He signed with the Indians before the draft, but made it to the big leagues for a few appearances in May of 1964, but spent most of the season in the Eastern League. He tore up AAA in 1965 (16-3) and pitched well in 4 late-season starts, so things were looking up.

He's with the Indians all of 1966, but can't crack the rotation, pitching out of the bullpen about once a week and getting about 1 start a month. Then in 1967 and 1968 he's hardly pitching anywhere. That could mean 2 things in the late 60's -- arm trouble or military service. Usually, when there's an empty year and the player was in the armed forces, Topps would put a line for that.

Tom had shoulder surgery. He had 12 AA starts in 1968 and in 1969 floated between A and AA ball. Then he's released. The Braves pick him up in 1970 and put him in AA where he flourished for the first half. But he couldn't get it done at Richmond in the second half. Things aren't looking good for Tom.

Then it came back. 1971 and 1972 were Tom's 2 best season. He was a swing man in between the rotation and the bullpen and he pitched well in 1971. He went back down in 1972 and then the bottom dropped out in 1973. He struggled in the minors through 1976 when he packed it in. It looks like he had recurrence of the arm troubles. I always hate seeing that in someone who has a promising start like Tom did in 1965. The fact that he fought through the arm troubles for about 10 years tells me how much he really loved baseball.

That Rawlings glove Tom's wearing looks a lot like the Bobby Grich model I bought in 1972 when I had need for a new glove (that story will come some other time). I used that glove until about 1995 when I had to break down and buy a new one to play softball. I don't know if there was still an original string left in that glove. I had a grandpa that had a lot of leather around the house and he'd restring it when I broke one. When I got that glove, I thought it was really cool how it had the hole in the back to stick out my index finger. Since Bobby Grich debuted in 1971, I really doubt Tom's wearing the same glove I had, but it's kind of neat to see him wearing it.


  1. Tom is a good friend of mine. He now lives a quiet life in North Myrtle Beach, SC. He still works part time as a golf director at a family resort in Myrtle Beach. He`s loved by everyone who knows him. He tells the most amazing stories about some of the most amazing players! And, Yes, he LOVED -- STILL loves -- baseball!. A fine man in every respect.

  2. I graduated from Manchester High School (CT) in 1964. Tom Kelley graduated several years earlier. I recall the crowds that turned out when he pitched for the high school team and during the summer with an American Legion team. He was a special kind of athlete who seemed destined for a big career in the majors. He was off to a great start and - as I recall - did experience arm problems. But - he got to the bigs. I am happy to hear that he did well once he turned away from the dream. He was also a great sixth man on the basketball team and a good football player.
    He is not forgotten in Manchester.