William Frederick Ely
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 1", Weight 155 lb.
- High School Girard Academy
- Debut June 19, 1884
- Final Game September 24, 1902
- Born June 7, 1863 in North Girard, PA USA
- Died January 10, 1952 in Berkeley, CA USA
Bones Ely broke into the major leagues with the Buffalo Bisons in 1884, playing one game, and then played 10 games for the Louisville Colonels in 1886, and then had a full season with the Syracuse Stars in 1890, but didn't really get started regularly in the majors until 1894, when he was 31 and became the regular shortstop with the St. Louis Browns. From 1894 through 1900, he had at least 467 at-bats every year, and in his last two seasons in the majors, he had 411 and 381 at-bats.
He was frequently referred to as "Fred Ely".
He was not a strong hitter. His highest batting average was .306 in 1894, the year when the National League as a whole hit .309. However, he did surprise that year with 12 triples and 12 home runs, far above his normal output. Neither total put him among the leaders in the hit-rich atmosphere of the lively ball era in 1894.
The St. Louis teams he played on in the 1880s were usually among the worst in the league. He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the late 1890s, but was released by them halfway through the 1901 season, when they won the pennant. Bones had apparently been encouraging players to jump to the new American League, and after he was released, that's what he did. Honus Wagner, who had previously played other positions, took over at shortstop. Ely, who was already a well-known veteran (and respected for his fielding at shortstop), became famous as the player who Wagner replaced.
As a shortstop, his fielding percentage was above the league average, and managers of the time seemed to pay attention to that.
He also pitched 9 games in the majors, going 0-5, but also recording one save, which retroactively made him the league leader in the American Association. It was the only time he led his league in any statistical category.
- AA Saves Leader (1886)