Dickey Pearce, along with Jim Creighton, was one of the most popular, famous figures in early baseball. Besides revolutionizing the shortstop position by playing closer in and inventing the bunt, he was regarded as one of the best players in baseball from his start in 1856, before the professional age, to his retirement in 1877 at the dawn of the modern National League.
When Pearce first began to play organized baseball as a 20 year old with the Brooklyn Athletics, shortstop was regarded as an unimportant position on the defensive spectrum, basically someone who stood around between the infield and the outfield and did little. The fleet-footed Pearce, at 5'3" not someone built to play an all-offense position, made it into the important position it is today by the time modern baseball began, with the 1871 National Association.
Pearce's recorded numbers aren't much to look at, particularly on the batting side. Regarded as a solid hitter early in his career, he was only a step or two above Ozzie Guillen by the time modern stats were kept. Some of his fielding brilliance, however, does shine through. In an era where the average shortstop carried a fielding percentage below .800, Pearce was at .828, also keeping his range factor above average even though the stats were kept only from his age 35-41 seasons. It's a testament to the high esteem Pearce was kept in by his peers that he was regarded as second only to George Wright as a shortstop by the time of his retirement in 1877.
Sources: www.baseballprimer.com, www.baseballlibrary.com, www.baseball-reference.com