This is the definitive biography of a 19th-century baseball Hall of Famer as well as a definitive presentation of two baseball-wide topics, a rarity in a book that is organized around a single player. The player is Mike "King" Kelly and the main topic is ties between baseball and the theatrical profession in baseball's first professional decades.
Kelly, who played mainly for Chicago and Boston and is sometimes considered the sport's most colorful huge star before Babe Ruth, is a perfect fit because he performed on stage and had an amusing way of carrying himself on and off the field.
Also detailed are baseball-related activities of actors and musicians most closely identified with the sport up to 1900. Names that may be more recognizable than others include De Wolf Hopper, the original stage performer of "Casey at the Bat;" John Philip Sousa; and Maurice Barrymore, great-grandfather of modern-day actress Drew Barrymore. The first 3,000-hit batsman, Cap Anson, is featured for his interactions with Kelly, his 19th-century acting career, and his trapshooting one, when it was okay to shoot at live birds.
The book's other notable topic, betting on baseball up to 1900, made national news in early 2004 because it details more than 150 regular-season bets on baseball by players, managers and owners.