George Kell Passes Away

George Kell’s Hall of Fame plaque (elected, 1983)

George Clyde Kell
Philadelphia A.L. 1943-1946, Detroit A.L. 1946-52, Boston A.L. 1952-54,
Chicago A.L. 1954-56, Baltimore A.L. 1956-57
Premier A.L. third baseman of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Solid hitter and sure-handed fielder with strong, accurate arm. Batter over .300 nine times, leading league with .343 in 1949. Led A.L. third basemen in fielding pct. 7 times, assists 4 times and putout and double plays twice.


Sad news for the Tigers family today with the passing of Hall of Famer George Kell. Kell of course was the Tigers third baseman for a spell in the 40′s and later became an institution as a broadcaster. In addition to his broadcasting work, he was largely responsible for bringing Ernie Harwell to Detroit after the two had met in Baltimore.

I grew up watching Kell and Al Kaline on the WDIV broadcasts and his southern drawl is etched into my memory. I remember the way he’d say “They’re gonna wave him home!” with a runner coming around third. Or the way he’d say even mundane phrases like “and the Tigers’ll be in Arrrrrrlington on Tuuuuuesday night.” At a press event at The Henry Ford museum I had to chance to speak with Mr. Kell for a few moments, and just hearing his voice made me feel a little bit warm. Rest in Peace Mr. Kell.

UPDATE: Just got this info from Fox Sports. They will be airing some Kell related programming tomorrow night. Also some quotes from Mario Impemba and John Keating.

On Wednesday (7:30 & 10:00 pm) and Sunday (12:30 & 4:00 pm), FOX Sports Detroit will re-air its 2005 half-hour special titled “FSN Basement: All-Star Edition,” featuring interviews with George Kell and Al Kaline, each recalling their numerous All-Star Game appearances, memories of playing for the Tigers and their years working together in the television booth.


Mario Impemba, Tigers play-by-play announcer, FOX Sports Detroit –

“Growing up in Detroit, Mr. Kell had a big impact on my desire to become a broadcaster. He had a unique voice that featured a smooth southern charm. People knew they were watching Tigers baseball when they heard George’s voice every summer.”

John Keating, TIGERS LIVE host, FOX Sports Detroit –

“One of the highlights of my broadcasting career was our trip to interview George at his home in Swifton, Arkansas…. just to talk baseball and his place in Detroit’s sporting history. He was gracious and warm to those of us who were still involved with the Tigers. He still watched every Tigers game and enjoyed it with no regrets about stepping away from the broadcast booth. To those of us who grew up with George and Al and Ernie and Paul Carey, they shaped the standard for broadcasting sports in our town. It is less of a ‘bright and sunshiny day’ in Michigan.

9 Comments

  1. Robo-Tiger

    March 24, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    I too grew up listening to George and Al on TV. Before PASS and then FSN, it was a real treat to have a Tiger game on the air as not every game was on TV as is the case now. Listening to George and Al was like sitting in the stands with your Grandpa and an Uncle, who just happened to be HOF players. Other phrases I remember Kell saying:
    -”There’s a looong drive….deeeep…waaay back…and gone!….a two run home run for Parrish and the Tigers take a 4-3 lead” or something like that.
    -speaking about a current player he thought was pretty good- “one the best in aaawll of basebaawll”
    -his intro at the beginning of the games will forever be etched into to my mind:
    “Well Hello everybody, this George Kell along with Al Kaline, we’re in Anaheim (or other city) where DE-troit Tigers will take on the California Angels. And Al the Tigers are ……
    Just typing it out nearly brings a tear to my eye. God Bless ya’ George Kell

  2. Rick G

    March 24, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    RIP George, so glad you were the broadcaster of my childhood. To this day, every game is a “big big ballgame against the X ballclub.” (no matter the sport!).

    Other great memories of those old Tigers broadcasts
    – The chomping animated Tiger jaws/teeth over the whole screen whenever a Tiger hit a homer (what was that, mid 70′s?).
    – At the end of the broadcast, when the Tiger would either bite through a bat if they won, or have an icepack on his head and wimper if they lost.

    Hopefully the Tigers will wear GK patches on their jerseys this year.

  3. joey c.

    March 24, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    This is very sad news indeed. George Kell was a huge part of my childhood, and perhaps did more to make me a hardcore Tiger fan than anyone other than my dad and brother. I may be in a small minority but I preferred hearing Kell call a game over Harwell and I’ve always sort of felt he was overlooked and under-appreciated when compared to our other great broadcaster. It absolutely blows my mind that these two spent time in the booth together when Harwell first came to Detroit. I would love to hear a game that they called together.

    A grade-school friend and I used to imitate Kell and Kaline on a daily basis. My favorite Kell line was probably, “and he made a whale of a play!” I also got a kick out of how he referred to every call-up as a “youngster.” I also remember him continually referring to Al, as “Al Kaline.” That may have just been me and my friend taking liberties with our imitation, but I believe he did this a lot at the beginning of the broadcast…when he would throw it over to Al for his two cents. “And I tell you what Al Kaline, this Kansas City team has been playing great baseball.”

    “Yeah, that’s right George.”

    I miss those two every time I turn on a game to be honest. We always had such great broadcasters in Detroit–Kell, Harwell, Carey, Blaha, Martyn–and although I’m so thankful to have grown up with them, it’s always so sad to say goodbye.

    Goodbye George Kell.

  4. David

    March 24, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Sad…

    Never got to see him play, although I’ve drafted him quite a few times. He was rated as a top-notch defender on MVP Baseball.

    You will be missed!

  5. Pingback: George Kell’s passing » Mack Avenue Tigers : A Detroit Tigers Blog

  6. ron

    March 25, 2009 at 1:49 am

    Missed seeing Kell by one year at my first Tiger game. Ray Boone was the third baseman. Nice memories from Joey C. RIP Mr. Kell.

  7. SJC in Detroit

    March 25, 2009 at 7:04 am

    Thank you George Kell.

  8. scotsw

    March 25, 2009 at 7:49 am

    It’s fun to read everyone’s memories. Any chance that FSN or WDIV will be able to rebroadcast a few famous Kell/Kaline games? I’d love to see Milt Wilcox’s near-perfect game again on its own merits, but even more so given this milestone.

    Thanks George — you made me a fan. Your easy style was the perfect tone for baseball on a warm summer evening.

  9. RKT in Mississippi

    March 30, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    I was fortunate to have met Mr. Kell at a Tiger v. Ranger game in 1995 in Arlington, Texas. It was our Dad’s 80th bday so my we all met for the game. We came early for BP and bought all the grandkids baseballs so they could get close to the field for perhaps a few autographs. At the time, our daughter was only six and got push aside by the bigger kids when Tigers signed a few. She came back to our seats in tears so we went up in front of the broadcast booth where Al Kaline and George Kell happened to be sitting waiting for the start of their work. After say hello and letting them know we drove over from Mississippi for the games, I asked Kaline if he would sign my daughter’s ball and he said “sure toss it up.” I did and after signing he asked my daughter if she “wanted George’s autograph too.” I responded on her behalf and said sure. I am keeping that ball for safekeeping until my daughter turns 40. Probably unbeknownst to them, they initiated my daughter as a true Tiger fan for life.