There's a decidedly un-American side to America's pastime, a tendency to create a class of royalty through nicknames. Here are the members of the most elite group, those who would be kings. Many were born with King as their surname, but most who were given "King" as a title simply did not deserve it. However, the first man on this list certainly was more than worthy:

Michael Joseph Kelly was "The King" long before Elvis. King Kelly remains one of baseball's most storied players, one of the game's first superstars and perhaps the most colorful player of the 19th century, if not of all time. He was extremely popular, thus the nickname.

It has been said that most of the baseball rule book was written to close loopholes Kelly exploited. Take substitutions, for example. In 1891 he was the player-manager of the appropriately named Cincinnati Kellys in the American Association. He benched himself one day and was watching the action from the dugout when an opposing batter hit a pop fly that headed his way. Knowing his catcher didn't have a chance to get the ball, Kelly ran on the field, yelled to the umpire that he was putting himself in the game, and caught the ball for an out.

This prompted a rule change that substitutions could not be made while the ball was in play.

Another Kelly catch that people loved to talk about was made while he was holding the mug of beer he carried to the outfield because he hadn't quenched his thirst between innings. Legend is Kelly made the catch with his free hand while running. The mug remained tightly clenched in his other hand, and spectators claimed Kelly caught the ball without spilling a drop.

What's missing from that story is the cigarette that seemed a permanent fixture between his lips. He often smoked while playing the outfield. Reportedly he once hired a Japanese butler whose duties included lighting a cigarette and handing it to Kelly as soon as the player finished his last one.

In Kelly's day, baseball games had only one umpire. Players knew one umpire couldn't keep track of everything. Thus Kelly would sometimes skip second base when the umpire wasn't looking, and run directly from first to third. Or, if he was on second base, he'd run straight home, skipping third base. Obviously, Kelly wasn't the only player to take shortcuts, but was the most notorious.

No shrinking violet, he wrote baseball's first autobiography, "Play Ball: Stories of the Diamond Field." It sold for a quarter when it came out in 1888. In 2006, it was reprinted, with a price tag of $27.

Most of the time you'd find Kelly in the outfield, though he did a lot of catching. In between he played every other position at one time or another, including 12 pitching appearances. He led the National League in hitting twice, stole a bunch of bases, and inspired a popular saying that was turned into a song, "Slide, Kelly, Slide." Some say he invented the slide. Maybe not, but nobody did it quite like King Kelly.

Kelly's eating, smoking and drinking excesses caught up with him, and by 1892 he looked like an old man. He played like one, too, hitting only .189 in 78 games with the Boston Beaneaters. Two years later he died of what was termed "typhoid pneumonia." He was only 36.

Kelly started his major league career with the Cincinnati Reds in 1878, but it was with the Chicago White Stockings (1880-86) that he earned his fame. His best seasons were in Chicago when he hit .354 in 1884 and .388 in 1886. The rest of his career was spent mostly with Boston teams in the National League, the ill-fated Players League (1890) and the American Association (1891).

In 1945 King Kelly was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Lore Verne Bader was born in 1888 in the unincorporated village of Bader, Illinois, named for William Bader, perhaps his grandfather. Bader is so small you won't find it on most maps. The SABR biography linked to his name offers no explanation for the pitcher's nickname, but I suspect it was a joke about his hometown, as though Bader were his family's kingdom. (While pitching for Buffalo of the International League from 1914 to 1916, sportswriters referred to him as "His Rustic Highness," though they misidentified his hometown as Baderville, Kansas.)

Bader's statistics have me wondering why he didn't get more work on the major league level. He made six starts, 16 relief appearances with the New York Giants (1912) and Boston Red Sox (1917-18), had five wins, three losses and an earned run average of 2.51. His minor league record was 124-72, with a 20-win season for Dallas of the Texas League, and two 20-win seasons for Buffalo.

Apparently Bader owed his success to a pitch — the shine ball — that was outlawed, along with the spitter and a few others, about the time he was winning 19 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1920. Bader did not pitch in organized ball in 1920 or 1922. Instead he played semi-pro ball in the Boston area, where he was accused of doctoring the ball while he pitched.

By 1926, all was forgiven, and at the age of 38, Bader became player-manager of the Lynn (Massachusetts) Papooses (that's right) of the New England League, and later was a coach for the Boston Braves and managed Providence and Hartford in the Eastern League.

One of his players in Hartford was first baseman Hank Greenberg, who went on to have a Hall of Fame career with the Detroit Tigers. Bader, however, was not impressed, declaring Greenberg would never be a major league player.

The story of Leonard Leslie Cole is a baseball tragedy. He had only three full seasons in the major leagues (two others were shortened by illness), and his lifetime pitching record was 54 wins, 27 losses.

He was born in tiny Toledo, Iowa, in 1886, but his family later moved to Bay City, Michigan, where he played third base in high school. Afterward, however, he showed an aptitude for pitching, impressing the manager of the local team that was a member of the Class D Southern Michigan League. And when he started winning games, it was probably inevitable that the six-foot-one-inch, right-hander would be nicknamed after the old nursery rhyme.

He won 21 games, lost 17, for Bay City in 1909, attracting the interest of the Chicago Cubs, who started him in a late-season game against the St. Louis Cardinals. He responded with a six-hit shutout. In 1910, he won 20 games for the Cubs, lost only four, had a 1.80 earned run average, and threw the first no-hitter in Cub history, against the Cardinals. It was a seven-inning game, probably shortened by darkness or rain. He also had a one-hitter, against Brooklyn.

The Cubs won the National League pennant, but lost the World Series, four games to one, to the Philadelphia Athletics. Cole was the starting pitching in the only game the Cubs won. He gave way to Mordecai Brown in the ninth inning, and Chicago won the game in the 10th, Brown getting credit for the victory.

A year later, the 25-year-old pitcher became ill early in the season — it was reported he had malaria — but he appeared to recover, and went on to win 18 games, losing only seven. Late in the season he tossed two one-hitters, against Brooklyn and Philadelphia.

He was ill again the next season, and when he declared himself well, and resumed pitching, he was shelled, giving up 36 hits and 26 runs in only 19 innings. The Cubs traded him to Pittsburgh, and he made six starts and six relief appearances with the Pirates, winning two, losing two, but pitching poorly throughout. The Pirates released him.

With the Columbus Senators of the American Association in 1913, Cole won 23 games, lost 11, and threw a no-hitting against the Milwaukee Brewers. Several major league teams were interested in Cole, and he signed with the New York Yankees.

He won 10 games for the Yankees in 1914, second best on the team. He returned to the Yankees in 1915, but was sidelined by a groin injury that required surgery. Anxious to get back to baseball, Cole began pitching before he was fully recovered. He won two games, lost three, and felt ill again. This time the diagnosis was tuberculosis, which may have been his underlying problem ever since his 1911. He was sent home to Bay City, Michigan, where his condition worsened, and on January 6, 1916, Cole died. He was only 29.

Charles Bernard Lear of Greencastle, Pennsylvania. was bound to be called "King." He came to some prominence pitching for Princeton in 1912, but did not return to college for his junior year. Instead he pitched for some semi-pro teams, which led to a contract with the Cincinnati Reds.

Lear was on the Cincinnati staff for two years (1914-15), won seven games, lost 12, and was released. He pitched briefly for Louisville of the American Association and Atlanta of the Southern Association in 1916, then left baseball. He was only 25.

Frederick Francis Lear, a New York City native who graduated in 1915 from Villanova University, went directly from college to the Philadelphia Athletics, but only for two at bats. He struck out both times and was sent to gain more experience with the Wheeling (West Virginia) Stogies of the Central League.

He remained in Wheeling in 1916, then spent a year in the U. S. Navy. A civilian again in 1918, he pinch hit twice for the Chicago Cubs, but spent most of the year with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League, batting .345 in 99 games, with five home runs (three more than anyone else on the team).

He would play just 71 major league games, 40 for the Chicago Cubs in 1919, 31 for the New York Giants in 1920, but he had his moments. On May 21, the New York Tribune, reporting on a game between Chicago and Brooklyn, headlined the story, "King Lear Hero of Game by Cubs."

Lear, at second base that day, batted clean up, went three-for-four, with a triple and a double. He may have been a hero that day, but he batted only .224 for the season. A year later, on May 7, he again was hero, hitting a home run and scoring three runs to help the Giants beat the Dodgers, 7-6.

The New York Evening Telegram had fun with the player:

"Early in the game, King Lear made quite a bone play. Wheat was on second when Koney hit to His Majesty the King. All that Lear would have had to do was to push forward his hand and tag Zach. But this the King failed to do. He preferred the longer out, and threw Koney out at first. A short single by Nels then drove in Zach.

"But this Lear is a king who rights his wrongs. He offended the Giant fans in once instance. Obviously, the thing to do was to appease his subjects and make them forget.

"It was easily accomplished. He tied the score in the fifth by lifting the ball into the left field bleachers for a home run."

That was his only home run for the New York Giants. Although he was batting a respectable .253 after 31 games, he was sent to San Antonio of the Texas League, where he batted .281 in 97 games, pinch hitting and playing first base.

He finished his playing career with Milwaukee of the American Association, not advancing despite back-to-back seasons when he batted .358 and .354. Eventually he left the Brewers to play for Kenosha of the Midwest League, but after three years he made peace with Milwaukee, and in 1927 ended his career by hitting .330 in the American Association.

After his playing days were over, Lear was a scout with the Pittsburgh Pirates for several years.

James Ward Brady was one of dozens, perhaps hundreds of Bradys nicknamed "King" in the early 1900s because of a popular series of dime novels about an American detective named James Brady, better known as "Old King Brady."

In looking through newspaper articles, I found several King Bradys who lived in the early 1900s. Included were a boxer, a basketball player, several baseball players, a golfer, the athletic trainer at Northwestern University, and an orchestra leader.

This particular fellow was born in 1881 in Elmer, New Jersey, one of 12 children — talk about "The Brady Bunch"! — and there were enough boys to form a family baseball team, but James apparently was the only one who played the sport professionally.

He made five brief visits to the major leagues, appearing in just eight games with four teams — the Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox and Boston Braves. The Red Sox let him go even after Brady pitched a shutout in his only game.

He won 20 games for the Johnstown Johnnies of the Tri-State League in 1908, and had a 17-8 record for the Albany Senators in 1911.

Two other pitchers nicknamed King Brady" also made it to the major leagues, albeit briefly. One — also known as Bill — had the proverbial cup of coffee with the Boston Braves in 1912, the other one was identified as Neal "King" Brady by the New York Times when he pitched for Cincinnati in 1925. He also played a couple of games for the New York Yankees (or Highlanders) in 1915, and again in 1917.

Shortstop John Brady, who never made it to the majors, was identified as King Brady by the Rochester Democrat-Chronicle when he played shortstop in 1918 for the Rochester Hustlers of the International League. This particular Brady was involved in this interesting incident in 1920 when he played in a Canadian league:

Duluth Herald, August 11, 1920


A police magistrate at Brantford, Ontario, has ruled that a ball player is justified in putting the kibosh on a spectator who abused him to the extent of using foul language.

James Haynes and John Gardner, two Brantford bugs, razzed two Brantford players, Johnny Murphy and King Brady, during the game of July 24. Brady warned them if they did not lay off, he would get them. They responded by calling them vile names.

Brady went into the bleachers, knocked Gardner cold, and Haynes saved himself by flight. Both bugs* were arrested and fined $10 each by the magistrate, who said Brady was justified by going after them, and that he was sorry they did not get more punishment.

*"Bugs" was a word commonly used to describe people known today as "fans."

Linwood Clifton Bailey, a left-handed pitcher from Tunstall's Station, Virginia, was crowned "King" by fans in Macon, Georgia, when he won 22 games for the city's team in the Southern Association in 1892. (Bailey was the ace of the pitching staff, just ahead of a man with a more interesting nickname, "Crazy" Schmit, who won 15 games. Also on the team: "Peak-a-Boo" Veach.)

As for Bailey, he made only one appearance in the major leagues, a complete game victory for Cincinnati in 1895. The following year he won 19 games for the Montgomery Senators of the Southern Association, and kept pitching until 1903.

Charles Frederick Koenig was one of the most famous of baseball's kings, playing under the name Silver King, from 1886-1897. Koenig is German for King, and his hair was described as the color of burnished silver.

Like other pitchers of his era, King occasionally played other positions. As a pitcher, he had a lifetime won-lost record of 203-182, playing with nine teams in major leagues. His best stretch was 1888-1890, with the St. Louis Browns of the American Association. He won 112 games in those three seasons. His best year was 1888, when he won 45 games, lost 20.

Apparently retired after the 1893 season, King returned in 1896 and won 10 games for Washington of the National League, with seven losses. He returned in 1897, winning six games, losing nine, then retired for good. He died in 1839 in St. Louis. He was 70 years old.

Several sites say Tutwiler's nickname was "King Tut." The problem: he his major league games almost a decade before the 1922 discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb, and I'm uncertain whether many people, particularly baseball fans, were familiar with Egypt's boy king.

Tutwiler, a first baseman-outfielder, continued to play minor league baseball until 1924, so it's possible he was called "King Tut" during his last three seasons, which were spent in the Southern Association and the South Atlantic (Sally) League. I've found some evidence Tutwiler was known as "Tut," but that may simply have been a play on his last name.

After batting .330 with the Hattiesburg (Mississippi) Woodpeckers of the Cotton States League in 1911, he played eight games with the Detroit Tigers, getting only six hits in 32 at bats (.188). He earned a second chance in 1913 when he batted .345 for the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Champs of the Central League, and had 10 hits in 47 at bats for Detroit (.213).

He spent the next three seasons with Providence of the International League, then drifted lower in the minor league ranks, though he almost always batted between .285 and .315. However, his problem can be found in his fielding statistics which show too many errors both in the outfield and at first base. Noteworthy about Tutwiler is that he threw equally well with either hand.

Lew "King" Brockett was a pitcher who earned a trip to the major leagues by winning 23 games for Buffalo in 1906. Next season he pitched briefly for the New York Highlanders before being sent to Montreal of the Eastern League. An 11-7 record with Newark of the Eastern League in 1908 got him another shot with the Highlanders, and he won 10 games (against eight losses) in 1909. Apparently he was out of action in 1910, and the following year had two wins and four losses for New York, and finished his career in 1912 in Buffalo.

King Karst, aka "Big Jack" Karst, must have been tearing up an amateur or semi-pro league somewhere in the east in order to get not one, but two nicknames. The third baseman's entire experience — as so far documented — is two inning for Brooklyn in 1915. He had one assist in the field, and never got up to bat.

King Bill Kay was an outfielder who must have had some fielding weaknesses. He got into only 25 games with the Washington Senators in 1907, had 20 hits in 60 at bats, a .333 average, but spent the rest of his 15-year career in the minor leagues, mostly in New York with Albany and Binghamton. His minor league batting average was well above .300, even when all the missing statistics are found.

Clarence "King" Lehr probably owes his nickname to his last name, which, I believe, is pronounced "lair," not "lear," but close enough. He was an infielder who played 23 games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1911, and didn't hit his weight, which was listed at 165 pounds. Lehr's batting average: 148. He wasn't the only King Lehr in the majors.

Norm "King" Lehr was a pitcher who made four appearances with Cleveland in 1926, but had no decisions. He spent 10 years in the minors leagues, winning 81 games. His best season was 1929 when he was 21-10 with the Williamsport Greys of the New York-Pennsylvania League.

John Albert "King" Morrissey played second base and shortstop for Cincinnati in 1902-3, batting .257 in 41 games. He spent 11 years in minors, the last four with his hometown Lansing (Michigan) Senators of Southern Michigan League.

Charlie "King" Schmutz was a pitcher who spent time with Brooklyn in 1914 and '15, winning just one game, losing three. He pitched five years in the minors, and closed out his career by winning 19 games for the Seattle Giants of the Northwestern League in 1916. Then he retired; he was 25. King Schmutz. You gotta love that name.

Chick King, given name Charles, played briefly played in the outfield for Detroit, the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals in the late 1950s, batted .237. He spent 11 seasons in the minors, retiring in 1961.

Clyde King may have won just 32 games during his seven seasons as a relief pitcher in the late 1940s, early '50s, but he was truly baseball royalty. He did most of his pitching for the Brooklyn Dodgers, going 14-7 in 1951, before finishing his playing career two years later with Cincinnati. Afterward he managed in the minor leagues for 11 years, then managed the San Francisco Giants, Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees for at least part of a season, and also worked in the Yankee front office.

Curtis King was a relief pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals (1997-99), appearing in 68 games. His won-lost record: 6-2.

Eric King pitched for Detroit, the Chicago White Sox, and Cleveland (1986-92). His career record: 52-45, with his best seasons coming in 1986, when he was 11-4 with Detroit, and in 1990 when he was 12-4 with the White Sox.

Hal King was a backup catcher (1967-1974) for Atlanta, Cincinnati, Houston, and Texas. He batted .214, and after he left the majors, he played in the Mexican League (1975-79).

Jeff King played major league baseball for 11 seasons (1989-1999), eight with Pittsburgh, three with Kansas City Royals, primarily third and first base. He batted .256 with 154 homes runs (his season high was 30). Twice this King drove in more than 100 runs.

Kevin King was a relief pitcher for Seattle (1993-95), making 34 appearances. His won-lost record: 0-3. He retired at age 27.

Jim King was an outfielder for 11 seasons in the 1950s and '60s, playing for six teams, mostly the Washington Senators. His lifetime batting average was .240, but he had some power, hitting 24 home runs in 1963.

Edward Lee King, known by his middle name, was an outfielder (1916-22) for the New York Giants, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia Phillies, batting .247. Like most players of his era, he returned to the minor leagues after his days in the majors were over, and played until 1928. He's not to be confused with ...

Edward Lee King, also known as Lee, arrived in the majors in 1916, playing 42 games with the Philadelphia Athletics, batting .188. He went back to the minors, spent a year in the service, and in 1919 batted .316 for Springfield of the Eastern League. The Boston Braves gave him a quick look, but didn't like what they saw, and King retired. He was 25.

Lynn "Dig" King was an outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1935-36 and 1939, playing in 89 games, and batting .208. However, in 1937 and '38, he hit .302 and .318 for Columbus of the American Association.

Marshall “Mart” King was a versatile fielder, but a poor hitter. He caught, played the outfield and second base for Chicago and Troy of the National Association (1871-72), batting .188 in 23 games.

Ray "Burger" King was a relief pitcher (1999-2008) with Milwaukee, Washington, St. Louis, Colorado, the Chicago Cubs, and Atlanta. He made 593 appearances, getting credit for 20 wins, being charged with 23 losses.

Nelson “Nellie” King stood six-foot-six and pitched for Pittsburgh (1954-57), made four starts and 91 relief appearances, compiling a won-lost record of 7-5. He pitched in the minors for eight seasons, and won 86 games. After he retired he was the sports information director at Duquesne University, and from 1967-75 broadcast Pirate games with Bob Prince.

Sam King was a first baseman who played 12 games for Washington of the American Association in 1884. His .178 batting average is the reason he never got to play a 13th game.

Steve King was an outfielder with Troy Haymakers of National Association in 1871-72. He batted .353 in 54 games, and probably would have continued to play when the National League came along a few years later, but by then he would have been in his 30s.

Other baseball royalty