George Kell
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George Kell
George Kell
George Kell.png
Third baseman
Born: (1922-08-23)August 23, 1922
Swifton, Arkansas
Died: March 24, 2009(2009-03-24) (aged 86)
Swifton, Arkansas
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 28, 1943, for the Philadelphia Athletics
Last MLB appearance
September 14, 1957, for the Baltimore Orioles
MLB statistics
Batting average.306
Home runs78
Runs batted in870
Career highlights and awards
Member of the National
Empty Star.svgEmpty Star.svgEmpty Star.svgBaseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svgEmpty Star.svgEmpty Star.svg
Election MethodVeterans Committee

George Clyde Kell (August 23, 1922 - March 24, 2009) was an American Major League Baseball third baseman who played 15 seasons for the Philadelphia Athletics (1943-1946), Detroit Tigers (1947-1952), Boston Red Sox (1952-1954), Chicago White Sox (1954-1956), and Baltimore Orioles (1956-57). Kell went on to become a Detroit Tigers broadcaster for 37 years. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.[1]

Kell was an All-Star for ten seasons. In 1949, he won the American League (AL) batting title hitting .343 with 59 runs batted in (RBI). In 1950, he hit .340 with 101 RBI and led the AL in hits and doubles. In 1951, he hit .319 with 59 RBI and led the AL in hits, singles, and doubles. He hit .300 or more for nine seasons. Kell also was hard to strike out; he struck out only 287 times in 6,702 at-bats during his career.

Baseball career

Kell DET.png
George Kell was honored alongside the retired numbers of the Detroit Tigers in 2000.

In college, Kell played for Arkansas State, where the baseball facility, Tomlinson Stadium-Kell Field, is named after him.[2]

A solid right-handed hitter and a sure-handed fielder, Kell was a ten-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.[3] Kell's final mark was .3429, Williams' .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. While with the Tigers, Kell wore three different numbers: 21, 15, and 7.

Kell finished his career with the Baltimore Orioles (1956-57), where he helped fellow Arkansan and Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson take over the third base position for the team. In his final season, he batted .297 in 345 at bats.

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. He posted a career .971 fielding 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 suspected for a long time that George Kell has taken more from this great game than he would ever be able to put back. And now today I know that I am more deeply in debt than ever before."[4]


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[5][6][7] for ABC television along with Bob DeLaney, the 1962 National League tie-breaker series for NBC television along with Bob Wolff,[8] 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) fellow Hall of Famer and former Tiger Al Kaline as color commentator, the latter pairing lasting for the remainder of Kell's broadcast career.

Broadcasting style

Kell during his time with the Red Sox.

Kell had a relaxed, easy-going "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, everyone."

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 hard line drive caught by a fielder was described, "He hit it like a bullet - but right at 'eem!" 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: "A long drive...way back...and gone!" A long homer was followed by, "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." He would also recount his early career interactions with the Hall of Fame owner and 50+ year manager of the Philadelphia Athletics, Connie Mack, whom he always referenced respectfully as "Mr. Mack".

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.

Personal life

Kell served ten years on the Arkansas State Highway Commission (1973-83) and owned a car dealership, George Kell Motors, in Newport.

Kell's brother, Everett "Skeeter" Kell, played the 1952 season for the Philadelphia Athletics.[9]

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.


Kell died at age 86 in his sleep in his hometown of Swifton, Arkansas on March 24, 2009.[3][10][11]

Fox Sports Detroit, by then the Tigers' local TV rights holder, honored Kell with re-airings of the special FSN Basement: All Star Edition 2005 featuring interviews with 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 following his death.[12]


  • 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)
  • Had 6 hits in a game (September 20, 1946)
  • Top 10 in AL MVP vote (1947, 1949, 1950)

See also


  1. ^ National Baseball Hall of Fame, George Kell [1] Retrieved April 28, 2015
  2. ^ Tomlinson Stadium--Kell Field at, URL accessed June 25, 2010. Archived 06-25-10
  3. ^ a b Lowe, John (March 24, 2009). "George Kell, Tiger great and longtime broadcaster, dies at 86". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on March 27, 2009. Retrieved .
  4. ^
  5. ^ Reichler, Joe (September 29, 1959). "Dodgers Confident of National Flag". Times Daily. Associated Press. p. 5.
  6. ^ Lowry, Cynthia (September 29, 1959). "Crosby Sings Plenty". Kentucky New Era. Associated Press. p. 18.
  7. ^ United Press International (September 30, 1959). "Vet, Rookie Combine for LA Playoff Win". The Modesto Bee. p. C10.
  8. ^ "Torre & Cubs?". The Hour. June 13, 1986. p. 19.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Hall of Fame baseball player George Kell passes away". KAIT. 2009-03-24. Archived from the original on 2009-03-28. Retrieved .
  11. ^ Ginsburg, Steve; Justin Palmer (25 March 2009). "Hall of Fame third baseman Kell dies". Reuters. Retrieved 2009.
  12. ^ Tigers Fans, FOX Sports Detroit Mourn the Passing of George Kell Archived 2009-03-28 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading

External links

Preceded by
Stan Musial
Hitting for the cycle
June 2, 1950
Succeeded by
Ralph Kiner

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