The Obit For George Kell

Hall of Fame third baseman George Kell dies at 86

By NOAH TRISTER – Mar 24, 2009

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — George Kell, the Hall of Fame third baseman who edged Ted Williams for the 1949 American League batting title and became a Detroit Tigers broadcaster for nearly 40 years, died Tuesday. He was 86. Jackson's Funeral Home in Newport confirmed the death but did not give a cause. The Hall of Fame said he died in his sleep at his home in Swifton. Kell was severely injured in a car crash in 2004 but was able to walk with a cane about six months later.

Kell outlasted Williams for the 1949 batting crown, hitting .34291 while the Boston Red Sox great finished at .34276. Kell played 15 seasons, hitting more than .300 nine times and compiling a career average of .306. He was a 10-time All-Star.

"There's no one who loved and respected the game more than George," Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said. "Not only was he one of baseball's true legends, but he was a fan, too. He loved coming to Cooperstown and sharing in the camaraderie with his Hall of Fame family."

Kell played from 1943-1957 with the Philadelphia Athletics, Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles. He topped .300 each year from 1946-53.

After he retired, Kell broadcast Tigers games from 1959 to 1996 — every year except 1964. Longtime Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell and Kell became close friends while working together in TV and radio.

"He had a very laid-back style," Harwell told WWJ-AM in Detroit on Tuesday. "He was easygoing and an expert on the game. He brought the field to the booth because he played and played well. He had a conversational style that people took to."

Al Kaline, a Hall of Famer for the Tigers, also was a broadcasting colleague of Kell's.

"George was a great friend and like a big brother to me," Kaline said Tuesday. "When we broadcast together, I was a rookie, and he was a veteran and he was a great mentor to me."

Kell played for the Tigers when he and Williams waged one of the closest batting races in baseball history.

"I beat him out, but not many people beat him out," Kell said years later. "That's why it was so fascinating. But it happened."

Kell was always proud of the way it happened. Cleveland pitched Bob Lemon in the finale against Detroit, then brought in future Hall of Famer Bob Feller in relief. Kell was in the on-deck circle in the ninth.

"The manager said he wanted to send a pinch-hitter in for me, but I said, 'I'm not going to sit on a stool and win the batting title,'" Kell told The Associated Press. "What Feller was doing in there in relief on the last day of the season I'll never know. They should have been trying some minor league prospect in there."

The final out was made before Kell had to hit, preserving his slim margin over Williams.

Kell reached the majors in 1943 and hit .268 in 1944, his first full season. He went from Philadelphia to Detroit in 1946. A's manager Connie Mack called Kell to his hotel suite and told him he had been traded to the Tigers.

"Mr. Mack said, 'It's going to be the greatest break you've ever had,'" Kell recalled.

Kell grew up in Swifton and lived in the same house from his birth to when it burned down in 2001, then was rebuilt on the same land. He had a unique arrangement to stay in Swifton while broadcasting for the Tigers. He kept an apartment in Little Rock so he could catch flights to games.

"I don't know anybody else who lives 1,000 miles away from their job and gets to commute back and forth," Kell said with a laugh. "The owner said, 'You can live in your beloved Swifton, but don't you dare miss a game.' I had a few close calls, but I didn't miss any."

Kell was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983 by the veterans committee. He was joined in that year's class by Brooks Robinson, another third baseman from Arkansas. Kell and Robinson were teammates with Baltimore as Kell's career was winding down and Robinson's was beginning.

"He was a class act through and through," Robinson said. "The crowning moment was when I was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983. I went in with my hero, George Kell."

Funeral services will be held Friday at Swifton United Methodist Church.

Mr. George Kell, Sr.

August 23, 1922 ~ March 24, 2009

Mr. George Clyde Kell, Sr. of Swifton, Arkansas died Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at Swifton. He was born August 23, 1922, the first son of Clyde and Alma (Perrin) Kell.

Mr. Kell spent fifteen seasons playing Major League Baseball. In 1983, he was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming the eighth third baseman ever inducted.

At the conclusion of his playing career, he worked one year for CBS on The Game of the Week. For the next thirty-seven years, he was the play by play T.V. broadcaster for the Detroit Tigers until retiring in 1986.

Mr. Kell served on the Arkansas Highway Commission from 1970 until 1980, serving as chairman the last four years. He served on many boards, including The Worthen Corporate Board in Little Rock, The First State Bank of Newport, Farmers Electric Co-Op in Newport, The Detroit Tigers in Detroit, Michigan, First Community Bank Advisory Board, and the Swifton School Board.

He was a lifelong member of the Swifton First United Methodist Church, where he served in many positions.

Mr. Kell was preceded in death by a son, George Kell, Jr.; his brother, Lt. Frank Kell, who died in World War II, and his wife of fifty years, Charlene Felts Kell in 1991.

He is survived by his loving wife of fourteen years, Carolyn; his daughter, Terrie Jane Lawrence and husband Tommy Dane of Jonesboro; his daughter-in-law, Carolyn W. Kell of Newport; one brother, Everett “Skeeter” Kell and wife Sue of Conway; a very special uncle, Wilson Kell and wife Betty Sue of Marianna, Arkansas; his uncle, Johnson Kell of Colorado; one sister-in-law, Norma Kell O’Brien of Clearwater, Florida; two brothers-in-law, Bob Peters and Don Peters; five grandchildren, Shannon and Brian Crunckshank, Kim Damain, both of Shreveport, Louisiana, Kevin Lawrence and wife Lisa, Cassandra Collins, and Caroline Wilson and husband Brandon, all of Jonesboro; one step-grandson, Justin Davis and wife Jackie of Fayetteville; six great-grandchildren; two step-children, Sherri Bennett and husband Paul of Jonesboro and Chris Clark and wife Melanie of Tuckerman; and six step grandchildren.

Pallbearers will be J.Q. Harvey, James Tinsley, Jim Spencer, Don Gale, J. W. Hulen, Jerry King, Chris Keaton, and Ralph Wray. Honorary pallbearers will be Clay Curtner, Bob Penix, Kaneaster Hodges, Jr., Dr. Roddy Lochala, Jeff Ellis, Morris Crandall, Jason Rodgers, Roy “Smokey” Runyan, and Board Members of Farmers Electric Co-Op, Gene Sweat, Jim DuPree, Bill Fortune, James Pigg, Bryan Runsick, and Sam Houston.

Memorials may be made to the Swifton First United Methodist Church., P.O. Box 335, Swifton, AR 72471. Arrangements by Jackson’s Newport Funeral Home.

A service of Remembrance will be 1:30 p.m. Friday, March 27, 2009 at the Swifton First United Methodist Church. Entombment will be in Swifton Cemetery.