August 23, 1922|
|Died: March 24, 2009
|September 28, 1943 for the Philadelphia Athletics|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 14, 1957 for the Baltimore Orioles|
|Runs batted in||870|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Election Method||Veteran's Committee|
George Clyde Kell (August 23, 1922 – March 24, 2009) was an American baseball third baseman who played for the Philadelphia Athletics (1943–46), Detroit Tigers (1947–52), Boston Red Sox (1952–54), Chicago White Sox (1954–56), and Baltimore Orioles (1956–57) in the American League, who went on to become a baseball broadcaster for 40 years.
Kell was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.
A solid right-handed hitter and a sure-handed fielder, Kell was a 10-time All-Star, batted over .300 nine times and topped the league's third basemen in assists and total chances four times and in fielding percentage seven times. He won his only batting title in 1949 (.343), denying Ted Williams his third Triple Crown; until the final week of the season, Williams had led the batting race. On October 2, 1949, Kell went 2-for-3 while Williams was hitless in two official at bats. Kell's final mark was .3429, Williams's .3427. One year later, Kell batted .340, leading the league with 218 hits and 56 doubles, but lost the batting title to Williams' teammate, Red Sox second baseman Billy Goodman.
In his career, Kell batted .306, with 78 home runs and 870 runs batted in, 881 runs scored, 2054 hits, 385 doubles, 50 triples, 51 stolen bases, a .414 slugging average, and 621 walks for a .367 on-base percentage.
Kell was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1983. A memorable quote from his induction speech at the Hall of Fame goes as follows, "I have always said that George Kell has taken more from this great game of baseball than he can ever give back. And now I know, I am deeper in debt than ever before."
Following his retirement as a player, Kell worked as a play-by-play announcer for CBS television (1958) and the Tigers (1959–1963, 1965–1996). Kell also helped call the 1959 National League tie-breaker series for ABC television along with Bob DeLaney, the 1962 National League tie-breaker series for NBC television along with Bob Wolff, the 1962 World Series for NBC Radio along with Joe Garagiola, and Games 3-5 of the 1968 World Series (for which the Tigers were the home team) for NBC television along with Curt Gowdy.
Kell initially called Tigers games on both radio and television, splitting the play-by-play with Van Patrick in his first season and then with Ernie Harwell. Following the 1963 season he briefly retired from broadcasting, citing a desire to spend more time at his Arkansas home; after a one-year absence, he was persuaded to return in 1965 working the (then-infrequent) TV games exclusively while Harwell did radio. Kell's television partners included Ray Lane, Larry Osterman, and (beginning in 1975) Al Kaline as color commentator, the latter pairing lasting for the remainder of Kell's broadcast career.
Kell had a relaxed, easygoing "country-gentleman" style of announcing. In contrast to Harwell, who opened his radio broadcasts with "Hiya, Tiger fans!", Kell traditionally opened his broadcasts with "Good afternoon, everyone!" or "Good EVE-ning, everyone!" When paired with Larry Osterman on Tigers telecasts in the late 1960s and early '70s, the opening was often "Thank you, Larry, and good afternoon."
Kell was also known for particular colloquialisms in his style, such as always referring to a high pitch near the batter's eyes as being "up in his wheelhouse", or a hard-hit home run being "tommyhawked" into the stands. A particularly good catch was exemplified by "Speared by (Aurelio) Rodríguez! Whale of a play!"
His home run call was simple but delivered with rising pitch: "And a long drive...way back...could be... and it is. Whoa, he hit it a mile!" The game-ending out, whether it meant a Tiger win or loss, usually merited a decrescendo: "Fly ball to center field...this should be the ball game... it is." Kell also relayed stories of his Hall of Fame career in the same folksy style. A favorite story of his was about the incident when his jaw was broken by a line drive off the bat of Joe DiMaggio. "I got up, made the play at third, then passed out."
In 2009, the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association gave Kell its highest individual honor, an honorary lifetime membership. The association was founded in 1948 by pioneer Tigers announcer Ty Tyson.
Kell served ten years on the Arkansas State Highway Commission (1973–83) and owned a car dealership, George Kell Motors, in Newport.
Kell married his childhood sweetheart Charlene; they remained married for 50 years until her death from cancer in 1991. They had one daughter, Terrie Jane, and one son, George Kell Jr.
Best-selling author Elmore Leonard in the 1990 anthology Cult Baseball Players wrote that Kell was his favorite player. When the novelist threw out the first pitch at a June 15, 1999 Tigers game, Leonard wore a No. 21 jersey that was presented to him by the Tigers in an homage to Kell.
Kell is survived by his second wife, Carolyn.
Fox Sports Detroit (the Detroit Tigers' current local TV rights holder) honored Kell with re-airings of the special FSN Basement: All Star Edition 2005 featuring interviews with George Kell and Al Kaline, each recalling their memories of playing for the Tigers and working together in the television booth. It re-aired several times during the week after his death.
Kell would have yet one more honor bestowed upon him. On June 12, 2009, John Putt, III, Postmaster of Swifton, Arkansas sent a formal request to Rep Marion Berry (AR-1), to have the town's Post Office named for George Kell. H.R. 3634 was introduced to the 111th Congress (2009–2010) on September 23, 2009 and on June 9, 2010 it was signed by President Obama and became Public Law 111-180. A Dedication Ceremony was held at the Swifton Post Office on August 26, 2010 that included a special cancellation for the day’s event.
- 10-time All-Star (1947–54, 1956–57)
- 8-consecutive .300 seasons (1946–53)
- Led league in batting average (1949)
- Holds record of the fewest strikeouts for a batting champion (13, 1949)
- Twice led the league in hits and doubles (1950–51)
- Hit for the cycle (June 2, 1950)
- Top 10 in AL MVP vote (1947, 1949, 1950)
- Hitting for the cycle
- List of Major League Baseball batting champions
- List of Major League Baseball doubles champions
- List of major league players with 2,000 hits
- List of Major League Baseball doubles records
- List of Major League Baseball hitters with six hits in one game
- Chicago White Sox all-time roster
- 1950 Detroit Tigers season
- Tomlinson Stadium—Kell Field at admin.xosn.com, URL accessed June 25, 2010. Archived 06-25-10
- Lowe, John (March 24, 2009). "George Kell, Tiger great and longtime broadcaster, dies at 86". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2009-03-24.[dead link]
- Reichler, Joe (September 29, 1959). "Dodgers Confident of National Flag". Times Daily. Associated Press. p. 5.
- Lowry, Cynthia (September 29, 1959). "Crosby Sings Plenty". Kentucky New Era. Associated Press. p. 18.
- United Press International (September 30, 1959). "Vet, Rookie Combine for LA Playoff Win". The Modesto Bee. p. C10.
- "Torre & Cubs?". The Hour. June 13, 1986. p. 19.
- "Hall of Fame baseball player George Kell passes away". KAIT. 2009-03-24. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
- Ginsburg, Steve; Justin Palmer (25 March 2009). "Hall of Fame third baseman Kell dies". Reuters. Retrieved 25 March 2009.
- Tigers Fans, FOX Sports Detroit Mourn the Passing of George Kell
- Baseball Hall of Fame – Member biography
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Hall of Famer George Kell: A Fan Favorite in Detroit, July 2006, Baseball Digest
- George Kell: From Rejected Prospect to Hall of Famer, August 1994, Baseball Digest
- Kell - He Was Least Likely, Baseball Digest, June 1951
- The Trade That Helped Create a Hall of Famer, Baseball Digest, September 1991
- Trister, Noah. "Ex-Oriole George Kell dies at 86," The Associated Press, Tuesday, March 24, 2009.
- "Kell, O's All-Star, Hall of Famer, dies," The Baltimore Sun, Wednesday, March 25, 2009.
- Goldstein, Richard. "George Kell, 86, Tigers' Hall of Famer and Broadcaster, Is Dead," The New York Times, Wednesday, March 25, 2009.
- Smith, Dale B. "George Kell: A Tiger in A's Clothing," Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society.