I've always known that he didn't have much of a Major League playing career, but never realized that he saw enough action in his only year, 1975, to warrant a card being issued for him in the 1976 set.
In his only season up in the big leagues, Kelly played in 49 games for 147 plate appearances, hitting a not-so-impressive .181 while playing first base and some outfield. Not much, but enough in my eyes for Topps to give him a card.
Nevertheless, after that brief time in the "bigs" he bounced around the Minors until 1980, suiting up for the Twins and Orioles.
He did have some pretty decent seasons, showing some "pop" to go along with some solid averages, and he even got to pitch in a few games, going 1-0 with a 1.88 E.R.A. in 24 innings, yet for some reason he never got the call back up.
Well as we all know, Kelly found his way to leading teams on the field, starting out as skipper for Visalia in A-Ball at the ripe old age of 26 in 1977 as a player-manager.
By the time 1986 rolled around, he was managing the Minnesota Twins, and it was a position he'd hold onto for 16 years, even leading the team to two world championships in 1987 and 1991.
Some of the players he managed were stars like Kirby Puckett, Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield and Jack Morris.
He finally retired after the 2001 season, getting himself a bunch of baseball card appearances of the managerial variety along the way.
But today, I post a 1976 player card I designed for the former Twins leader reflecting his cup-of-coffee back in 1975.
Seems the Twins didn't have a card of a first baseman in the 1976 set. I had to "cut out" the player icon in the lower left from a George Scott card and recolor the border for the Kelly card shown below. Go figure...
|The future World Series winning manager as a player in 1976.|