The Obit For Bill Kelso

Former big-league player, scout Bill Kelso dies

The Kansas City Star | Bill Richardson

Posted on Tue, May. 12, 2009 10:15 PM

Bill Kelso, who pitched in the major leagues and then spent 30 years as a baseball scout, died Monday night in North Kansas City. He was 69.

Jeff Kelso said his father passed up football and basketball scholarships at the University of Kansas after being signed by the Dodgers in 1962. He was traded to the Angels and spent parts of three seasons with LA during 1964-67. He pitched for Cincinnati in 1968 and ended his playing career with a 12-5 record.

Kelso then scouted for the Angels, Phillies and Astros. His notable finds included former Phillies outfielder Bobby Dernier and current Astros first baseman Lance Berkman and pitcher Roy Oswalt.

Kelso was a multisport athlete at North Kansas City High School, playing on the 1957 basketball team that lost to St. Charles in the Missouri state finals. He was also a member of amateur baseball’s Ban Johnson League Hall of Fame.

Kelso’s pizza parlor in Liberty was a popular hangout for Chiefs players when the football team trained at William Jewell College.

Funeral services will be at 1 p.m. Friday at the Vineyard Church, 12300 NW Arrowhead Trafficway in Kansas City, North, with visitation starting at 11 a.m.

Bill Kelso

Published in Kansas City Star on 5/14/2009

Bill Kelso, 69, of Kansas City, Mo., passed away May 11, 2009. Visitation will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, May 15, at The Vineyard Church, 12300 NW Arrowhead Trfwy., Kansas City.

Service 1 p.m. at the church. Burial to follow at White Chapel Memorial Gardens.

Bill Kelso was inducted into the NKCHS Alumni Hall of Fame in 2005, class of 1958. While attending NKCHS, Bill was involved in a number of activities. He was a member of A Capella Choir, Student Council and the Buzz staff. Bill was a founding member of the Young Life Club at NKCHS and was part of the work crew that developed the Frontier and Silvercliff Young Life Camps.

Most of his contemporaries remember Bill for his athletic excellence. In his time wearing the purple and gold, he lettered three years each in football, basketball and baseball, and lettered one year in track.

Bill was chosen as a member of the Missouri Boys All State Teams in both football and basketball during his senior year at Northtown.

Upon graduation, Bill was awarded an Outland Scholarship to attend the University of Kansas and it was while in attendance there, that he signed his first professional contract to play baseball for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After working through the Dodgers organization until 1964, Bill was traded to the California Angels. For the next nine years, he made the most of his time in "The Show", setting the American League and California League records for most appearances by a rookie pitcher. Bill also played for the Oakland A's and the Cincinnati Reds during his professional career and retired from playing in 1973.

In 1969, while still active in professional baseball, Bill founded Kelso's Pizza and Pub with its original location just off of the square in downtown Liberty.

The next generation of that successful venture exists on the corner of Armour and Swift in North Kansas City: Kelso's owned and operated by his son and daughter, Jeff and Kelly Kelso. Bill also founded the successful northland nightclub "The Varsity" that brought some of the best recording stars from the 50's and 60's to perform north of the river.

After retiring from playing, Bill became a talent scout for the California Angels. He scouted for the next 29 years, the last 14 as National Scouting Supervisor for the Houston Astros.

A few of the major league stars that he is responsible for signing are: George Vukovich of the Philadelphia Phillies; Bob Dernier of the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros; Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge and numerous other Astros.

The professional arena isn't the only place that the draw of athletics was strong for Bill. During high school, he played in the Ban Johnson League for the Western Auto. Years later, upon his return to North Kansas City, he formed and coached the original United Missouri Bank team in the very same league that meant so much to him in his youth.

Being able to give aspiring athletes the same opportunity that he had, has always been what's most important to him. For his personal achievement, dedication and commitment to the success of the Ban Johnson League, Bill was selected as a member of the Ban Johnson Hall of Fame and was named to the Ban Johnson 75th Anniversary "Dream Team".

Passing on knowledge and his fathomless 'love of the game', and game was always a major driving force in Bill Kelso's life. Throughout his travels around the country, he always found a program in need of a coach and a mentor; from Whitworth College in Spokane, Wash., to Harvest Christian Academy in Watagua, Texas, or right back here coaching baseball at Park College.

Bill Kelso was a coach in the truest sense of the word. He could not pass a playground, ball court, or diamond, where athletes of tomorrow struggled, trying to realize their own dream, without offering a word of advice or simply showing them the right way to do it.

He always taught that, though the skills fade and the body grows weary, what and who you are, is immortal. More than his "love of the game" was his love for his family.

Bill is happy that he's in heaven with his mother, Beulah Kelso, and his best friend, Ron Henderson. He is survived by his wife, Celine Kelso, of the home; children, Kelly Kelso, Jeff Kelso and wife Chandra, Kirby Kelso, Krae Kelso; grandchildren, Kelsey Rigg, Pollie Rigg, Sophia Rigg, Adrienne Kelso, Bianca Abbate, Bo Kelso; brother, Cecil Reed and wife Patricia; many beloved family and friends.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the NKC High School Athletic Department in care of Premier Bank, 1925 Burlington, North Kansas City, MO 64116. Arr.: White Chapel Funeral Home (816) 452-8419.