George Kell 1922-2009

Hall of Fame third baseman, ten time All-Star, and 1949 batting champ George Kell has died.

I knew him best as the play-by-play guy for Tigers’ games on WDIV in the 70s and 80s. He was paired with Al Kaline in those days, which made a rare double Hall-of-Fame broadcast combo. Kaline’s unsure commentary made Kell seem better than he was by comparison, I think, and in all honesty they both made me want to turn the sound down and click on Ernie Harwell on WJR for the background noise. Still, Kell was a pleasant presence on Tigers’ broadcasts, and though many will take shots at his borderline Hall of Fame credentials, he was always described as one of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet, and that came through in his public appearances.

Friend of ShysterBall Mike McClary interviewed Kell over at the Daily Fungo in March 2007. It’s worth a listen.


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Dan Jeffers
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Dan Jeffers

I grew up watching Saturday afternoon broadcasts with Kell and Kaline.  I remember that pitches were not just “high” or “low”, but always “up high” and “down low” and his home run call “he hit it a miiilllle!” and how the morning rock disc jockeys would impersonate him talking about encountering a player “in tha lobby of the ho-tel.”

RIP George.

Ron
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Ron
Detroit Tigers’ fans everywhere are in mourning and that is that the best you can come up with? “unsure commentary and turn the sound down”? That is more a lefthanded compliment bordering on an insult to two players, one Spectacular and an all time great in Kaline, and the other Kell, who was the best thirdbasemen before anyone named Mathews, Brett, Schmidt, or Brooks Robinson. Kell did everything at the plate except hit homeruns, and fielded superbly. try again. George Kell was a class gentleman and continued to sign and answer all autograph request up to the end. God Bless… Read more »
Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra

Ron—I’m sorry you took that as a slam on Kell, but it wasn’t intended as such.  I grew up watching Kell and I found him to be a pleasant enough broadcaster, and everything I’ve heard about him makes him sound like a wonderful human being. I’ve gone on at length about how Tiger baseball was really Ernie Harwell for me, however, and to not at least acknowledge that risks rendering whatever nice things I say about Kell sound like disingenous praise. 

Apologies if that offends you.

Ron
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Ron

Craig, I appreciate your sincere words and honesty. Thankyou. It will also be a sad day for Tigers fans everywhere when Ernie gets called to the broadcast booth in the sky. We Tigers’ fans have been blessed with great men in the way they announce the games both on the radio and tv.

henri
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henri

Here is a memorial I created for George. Please visit and leave a message, light a candle, etc. http://www.ilasting.com/georgekell.php

Henri

henri
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henri

I created a memorial for George. Please visit and leave a message, light a candle, etc. Thanks.

http://www.ilasting.com/georgekell.php

Bill W
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Bill W

Borderline Hall of Fame credentials? Are you nuts?
Any ballplayer would be ecstatic to have Kell’s career stats. He was one of the best third basemen to ever play the game. Sure he wasn’t the long ball hitter but he always seemed to get the ball in play plus a .306 lifetime batting average ain’t nothing to sneeze at.

Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra
Bill W:  It’s not my intention to denigrate Kell’s accomplishments, and I don’t feel altogether comfortable talking objectively about his hall of fame credentials for fear that any criticism of him will be perceived (again) as such denigration. But the short version: Kell was an excellent contact hitter, but lacked the kind of power people had come to expect of third basemen in the 40s and 50s.  The fact that his numbers were posted in mostly hitters’ parks requires us to make some sort of mental deduction of the raw numbers as well. He was competent, but by no means… Read more »
Bert
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Bert
Mr. Kell was a class act and will be missed. As for HOF credentials, how about this: in 15 seasons, he struck out only 287 times, an average of less than 20 times per year. The year he won the batting title, 1949 (when he kept Ted Williams from winning the Triple Crown again), he struck out only 13 times in 134 games. How many players do you know nowadays who strikes out once every 10 games? Oh and it’s hard to fuss about someone who had more doubles (385) than strikeouts (287) in their career… Great contact hitter, maybe… Read more »
Seth
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Seth
Craig:  What power hitting third basemen of the 40s and 50s are you thinking of?  The only one that immediately comes to mind is Eddie Matthews.  Matthews no doubt captured the imagination of baseball fans and writers of that era with his towering home runs, but his career batting average was .35 points lower than Kell’s (.271 vs. .306).  The truth is alot of us would be happy to do away with the sportswriters votes. Who do you honestly think is more qualified to judge the talents and abilities of a ballplayer – a bunch of writers (most of whom… Read more »
Jim
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Jim

When Kaline started with Kell, it was a miserable broadcast. Kaline was remarkably bad. He slowly improved, but I always liked Kell. His folksy, genteel approach was similar to Harwell, if not as good. He never left Kaline hanging out to dry and he had some good stories from his playing days.  I miss his broadcasts. RIP Mr. Kell.

Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra
Seth— Nothing I say on the subject can (nor should it) diminish your admiration for George Kell, and nothing I say can (nor should it) take away from his accomplishments as a player.  I happen to be a huge Alan Trammell fan.  Alan Trammell is not and likely will not be in the Hall of Fame any time soon.  This doesn’t make him a lesser player to me no matter what anyone writes about him and no matter his vote totals. But the issue I’m addressing is not whether George Kell was a great player and great man.  He was.… Read more »
Bert
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Bert
OK, I’m jumping into this one hip-deep, being a fellow Arkansan and die-hard stat junkie… Craig: So what you’re saying is that Kell is clearly in the Top 9 third baseman of all time, but he might need deserve to be in the HOF? How about looking at another stat, which is so important for a third baseman: Fielding Percentage… As I mentioned before, Kell had a career .969 average at third… Looking at 3B FP only for the others you mention: Brooks: .971 Kell: .969 Boggs: .962 Lindstrom: .959 Matthews: .956 Schmidt: .955 Brett: .951 Traynor: .947 Baker: .943… Read more »
Bert
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Bert

Make that “might not deserve”… Mea culpa…

Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra
Bert—if you’re a die hard stat junkie, you’ll know that fielding percentage is perhaps the worst stat out there for judging defense. Why? Because it credits a player for not getting to balls. If a ball is hit to Derek Jeter’s left and he (a) gets a bad jump; (b) runs slowly; and (c) dives and still doesn’t get within ten feet of it, he is not penalized. In fact, such a terrible play is totally invisible to fielding percentage. However, if someone else breaks instantly on a ball that no mortal would ever field, lays out for it and… Read more »
Seth
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Seth

Does anyone know of any links where I could find audio clips of Kell and Kaline announcing together?

Randy
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Randy
I sort of grew up with the Tigers in the 60s – My dad worked at Tiger Stadium and I spent a LOT of time there.  I met Mr Kell on several occasions.  He was always a gentleman and never hesitated to talk to anyone – even a “star-struck” kid … It amazed me that I was talking to the “guy-on-the-radio”, even though I would spend hours shagging fly balls for Northrup, Horton, Kaline, Mcauliffe, Cash, Brown, etc etc. and never think much of it.  Baseball has lost one of its greatest Class Acts.  You will be missed Mr Kell,… Read more »
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