By contemporary newspaper accounts, the club was mainly referred to as the Cincinnati Reds, the same name as their cross-town rivals in the National League. This in addition to variants on the informal name "Kelly's Killers". It is the latter name, however, by which they are more broadly known today.
The Cincinnati Kelly's Killers were a response by the American Association to fill the void that the Cincinnati Reds had left when the club vacated the league after the 1889 season and again before the 1891 season. The Reds played in the National League for the 1890 season but were losing money and facing bankruptcy. Reds' ownership sold the club to Players' League investor Albert Johnson. Johnson then withdrew his newly acquired Reds club and moved them to the Players' League for the 1891 season. After the Players' League collapsed, Johnson committed the Reds to the American Association.
Meanwhile, the National League placed a new franchise in Cincinnati which was owned by John T. Brush. However, for reasons that are still unknown, Johnson decided to sell his Reds club back to the National League before the start of the season. The National League simply let Brush take control over the Reds as if they never left the league in the first place.
The Association was crushed when the Reds left the league for a second time. The league placed a new franchise in the Queen City to fill the void left by the Reds' departure. The new Association club was owned by Chris von der Ahe, who also owned the St. Louis Browns. His new Cincinnati club would be captained by Mike "King" Kelly, whose major league career began in Cincinnati with the original National League Reds club of the 1870s.
The new Association club was in need of a ballpark. Vacant lots within the city were few and far between so ownership decided to build a ballpark in a picturesque location along the Ohio River that was known as Pendleton Park, or Pendleton Grounds. The club secured a lease and built a small ballpark within Pendleton Park, which was dubbed East End Park by the media. The location of the park was off Eastern Avenue (now called Riverside Drive), where the Schmidt Recreation Complex is currently located. Many fans reached games by steamboat, coming either from the city or from Coney Island. East End Park was one of only a handful of major league parks to have access by way of a river.