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This Day in Buffalo Sports History: Finding a niche, eventually

   June 19, 1884 -- Today marks the start of an extremely odd baseball career. Let's introduce William "Bones" Ely.

   The Bisons were in the National League at that point in their history, and Ely made his pro baseball debut on this day. He was a pitcher, and he started one game. It didn't go so well. Ely allowed 15 runs (eight of them earned) and took the loss. At the plate, he was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.

   You might think he was done with baseball, at least at the game's highest level. Hardly.

   Ely popped up as a position player in the American Association for Louisville in 1886, and for Syracuse in 1890. Then it was back to the National League in 1891, seven years after his debut, as he played for Brooklyn. Then, Bones was on to St. Louis in 1893, as a 30-year-old ... and found a home as a shortstop.

   Ely played three years in St. Louis and five-plus seasons for Pittsburgh. He became a spare part when the Pirates decided to use Honus Wagner as their full-time shortstop. Wagner went on to become one of baseball's all-time greats.

   As for Ely, he finally retired in 1902 at the age of 39 with more than 1,000 games in the National League.

 --- Budd Bailey

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