Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

George Kell, 1957 Spire #246

I know I promised you a "Where Are They Now?" of the 1989 Orioles, but the real world has intervened. Former Orioles infielder and Baseball Hall of Famer George Kell died in his sleep this morning at age 86. Though he spent just two years at the end of his career in a Baltimore uniform, George made an impact on the franchise both on and off the field. As a 34-year-old in his final season (1957), he hit .297 and represented the Birds in the All-Star Game. But more importantly, he unselfishly served as a mentor to a young Brooks Robinson, helping ease his path from the sandlots of Arkansas to Cooperstown. As a tribute to Kell, I'd like to his own words and the words of his teammates do the talking. All quotes are from John Eisenberg's From 33rd Street to Camden Yards.

GEORGE KELL: "Paul (Richards) told me when he went to Baltimore, 'I'm going to trade for you and make you the manager, and I'm going to move into the front office as the GM.' When he traded for me, I assumed that was the way it would be. At the time I was really interested in managing. Then in '57, about midseason, he told me the owners had told him they wanted him to manage, that they'd hired him for that and no change would be made. I said that was OK. I was ready to retire anyway."

BILL WIGHT: "Kell helped us. He was a good fielder. That was when they were just bringing out batting helmets. They were optional at first. You had a choice of whether to wear them. Kell never used one, and he'd dive into the ball-a great fastball hitter; he could pull anyone foul. Then one day he said, 'You know, I think I'll wear a helmet tomorrow.' The next day he got hit in the head. Popped right in the head. That started other guys using the helmets."

GEORGE KELL: "That was the only place in my career where I walked to the park. I don't remember anyone stopping me. They probably didn't know who I was. But I enjoyed Baltimore. The fans were great."

GEORGE KELL: "Brooks and I were raised ninety miles apart, same background, same family life, same church, same values...He came up later in '56 and opened with us in '57. He played third and I played first against left-handers. Against righties I'd play third. We spent a lot of time together. I think I helped show him how a major leaguer was supposed to live. That might have helped his adjustments."

BILL WIGHT: "In the spring of '57 Richards told Kell, 'I'd like you to talk to Brooks about when he backhands the ball, he brings the glove over his eyes and loses sight of the ball.' Kell said, 'I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to embarrass myself. We've been here a month and the guy hasn't missed a ball yet.' That was the end of that conversation."

Vaya con dios, George.


--David said...

I didn't know him or of him, but he was born and died about 200 miles from where I live. They had a very nice piece on him during the local news yesterday.

Commish said...

That's a really cool card. Its from online collecting, no?

I really love the logos we used, the script and piping. The Bird on a ball logo on the card completes it.

Nice entry, Kevin.

Kevin said...

David - I was glad to see that he got some media recognition this week.

Bob - Yes, that's from the Baseball Boss online game. The Birds really did get off on the right foot with those classy 1950's uniforms and logos.