Friday, September 13, 2013

1949 BOWMAN GEORGE KELL


THE PRIDE OF SWIFTON, ARK.




CLIPPED BY A LINE DRIVE IN '48.



THE FRONT PAGE

  • Hall of Fame third baseman George Kell was one of the top players to emerge during the World War II era between 1942-45. While lacking power -- averaging only seven homers a season during his 15-year career -- Kell was a lifetime .306 hitter and a 10-time All-Star who was as steady as a metronome in the field. He also played a major role in mentoring a future Hall of Famer who would join Kell in Cooperstown as part of the Class of 1983. 

THE BACK PAGE

  • As a kid, I would've loved sending away for that ring and then getting it in the mail. Few things were more exciting than popping open the mailbox and having something addressed to you, especially a package. 
  • Kell suffered that broken jaw in '48 from a bad-hop line drive hit by Joe DiMaggio.

PHOTO PLAY

  • Standard '49 Bowman issue. Understand, this 240-card set was the first to feature colorized photos, ushering in the modern baseball card era. With few games televised and homes actually having TVs, these 2 1/16 x 2 1/2-inch swatches of cardboard were the only resource most kids had to see what their heroes looked like up close. They served almost as much for reference as collectibles. 

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • Originally signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in '40 and was released in '42 before the Philadelphia Athletics signed him.
  • Made his major-league debut in Philadelphia in '43 and played four seasons before being traded to the Tigers in May '46. Manager Connie Mack dealt him because he wasn't convinced Kell would be able to compete with the regulars returning from the war.
  • Kell proved him wrong. In Detroit, he established himself as a perennial All-Star, playing seven years and never hitting below .300 in any full season.
  • Won the '49 AL batting title, edging Ted Williams by 0.0002 (.342.9-.342.7). If Williams had either one more hit or one less at-bat, he would've been the first to win the Triple Crown three times. That probably didn't chap the ass of  The Splendid Splinter too much.
  • Kell had his best season a year later, finishing fourth in the MVP voting. He led the league in hits (218) and doubles (56) and drove in 101 runs but hit only eight homers. He was second this time in hitting with a .340 average.
  • In 6,702 at-bats, he struck out only 287 times, walking 621 times.
  • Played three years with the Red Sox ('52-'54) and three with the White Sox ('54-'56).
  • In May '56, the Orioles acquired Kell in a trade with the White Sox with the thought he could tutor rookie third baseman Brooks Robinson, a fellow Arkansas native from Little Rock. Kell had long been Robinson's idol. 
  • Kell played two seasons with the Birds before turning over third base to his understudy in '58. The Orioles wouldn't have to worry about that position for the next 18 seasons. 
  • Became a broadcaster after retirement and settled in with the Tigers for two stints in radio and TV totaling 36 years, retiring after the '96 season.
  • Kell, voted in by the Veterans Committee, and Robinson, a first-ballot inductee, had their day in Cooperstown on July 31, 1983, and are two of only 11 major-league third basemen in the Hall. Their class also included Walter Alston and Juan Marichal.
  • Finally, this from the induction speech by Kell, who died at age 86 in '09: "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.''


KELL ADDED THE INSCRIPTION WITHOUT BEING ASKED.

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