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
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
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
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
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
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.