Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with George Kell, June 4, 1988

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Growing up in Arkansas / college

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Partial Transcript: Mr. Kell, you were born and raised in Swifton, Arkansas, weren't you?

Segment Synopsis: George Kell discusses his childhood in Arkansas, his father, and his early years in baseball. He states that he played part time and taught high school part time with his wife.

Keywords: Al Milner; Fathers; School teachers; WW II

Subjects: Brooklyn Dodgers (Baseball Team); Kell, George; Mack, Connie, 1862-1956; Major League Baseball (Organization); World War, 1939-1945

00:07:47 - Connie Mack

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Partial Transcript: Well, tell me, tell me about Connie Mack, what kind of a person he was, uh, describe him if you could...

Segment Synopsis: Kell discusses Connie Mack's personality, and how he performed as a baseball team owner and manager. He describes his relationship to him and Mack's role in baseball history.

Keywords: Baseball Manager; Detroit (Mich.); Philadelphia (Pa.); Pitch hit

Subjects: Baseball managers; Baseball team owners; Mack, Connie, 1862-1956

00:23:12 - Game meetings / respect for Connie Mack

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Partial Transcript: Well, he had a lot of meetings, he had a lot of meetings. The meetings were more or less to tell us, uh, uh, I don't expect you to win the pennant...

Segment Synopsis: George Kell discusses team meetings he and other players had with Connie Mack, and how he encouraged the team to play well. He states that Connie Mack was respected by all.

Keywords: Dugouts; Philadelphia (Pa.); Umpires

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball umpires; Mack, Connie, 1862-1956

00:27:07 - Team Atmosphere and Ballparks

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Partial Transcript: What kind of atmosphere did you have on that team well I can't remember really dog on we lost so much I said to this fella in Boston we got last both years.

Segment Synopsis: George Kell discusses team atmosphere, relationships, the different baseball parks and some of his fellow teammates.

Keywords: Baseball Parks; Canada; Griffith Stadium, Washington, D.C.; Prisoners of War; WWII

Subjects: Fowler, Daniel E.; Kell, George; Mack, Connie; Prisons; St. Louis Cardinals (Baseball Team)

00:32:17 - Spring training / the 1946 World Series

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Partial Transcript: Um, what was spring training like that year? You had a lot of returning ball players

Segment Synopsis: Kell discusses spring training after World War II, the issues related to baseball players returning from the war, and the games and teams in the 1946 World Series.

Keywords: Baseball World Series; Boston (Mass.); Brooks Robinson; Philadelphia (Pa.); Post-war era; Spring training; WW II

Subjects: Baseball players; Detroit Tigers (Baseball Team); DiMaggio, Joe, 1914-1999; Mack, Connie, 1862-1956; World War, 1939-1945

00:38:12 - Kell's relationship with his father

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Partial Transcript: When you were, when you were a kid, did you father work with you on that?

Segment Synopsis: Kell talks about his relationship with his father, whom he viewed as being the most respected man he knew.

Keywords: Fathers; July 4th; Pitching; Respect; Swifton (Ark.), Baseball pitching

Subjects: Baseball; Fatherhood; Kell, George

00:41:02 - The impact of being traded on Kell's family

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Partial Transcript: When you got traded for McCoskey, you wife was with you then...

Segment Synopsis: George Kell discusses his being traded in 1946, while he was on the road and his wife was back in Philadelphia at that time. He tells how an elderly landlord and his family helped his wife.

Keywords: Baseball player wives; Landlords; Philadelphia (Pa.); Player trades; Wives; trades

Subjects: Baseball players; Kell, George

00:44:02 - The Mexican League / early attempts at organizing a players' union

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Partial Transcript: In 1946, going back to spring training very quickly, there were a couple of things...

Segment Synopsis: Kell discusses the American players who went to play for the Mexican League. He also describes early attempts to organize a players' union, and his concern at that time about going against Connie Mack.

Keywords: Mexican League; Unions

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball players; Baseball players--1940-1950; Liga Mexicana de Beisbol Profesional; Mack, Connie, 1862-1956; Minor league baseball.

00:46:57 - Hank Greenberg

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Partial Transcript: Um, Hank Greenberg had a real a big year with you all in...

Segment Synopsis: George Kell discusses his relationship with baseball great Hank Greenberg, whom he considered to be one of the greatest players of all time. He talks about Greenberg's being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and how he afterwards lost interest in playing and became a baseball executive.

Keywords: Baseball executives; Jewish Hall of Fame

Subjects: Baseball players; Cleveland Indians (Baseball Team); Greenberg, Hank; Kell, George; Pittsburgh Pirates (Baseball team)

00:50:29 - A .300 batting average

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Partial Transcript: You were, uh, you know, looking statistically, you had quite a transformation...

Segment Synopsis: Kell discusses his improvement as a batter, and how he was able to hit .300. He shares how this changed throughout his career.

Keywords: Batting; Batting averages; Fastballs; Hitters; Spring training

Subjects: All-Star Baseball Game.; Baseball; Kell, George

00:55:07 - Tiring of playing baseball

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Partial Transcript: This game is, is psychological, its longevity...

Segment Synopsis: Kell talks about his getting tired of playing baseball, and how it was impacting his family. He states that when he did not receive the manager position he was promised, he left baseball and pursued a career in broadcasting.

Keywords: Baseball broadcasting; Broadcasting; Fatigue

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball managers; Baseball players; Kell, George

01:00:38 - Endorsements

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Partial Transcript: Did you get a lot of endorsements because of that year?

Segment Synopsis: Kell discusses endorsements he received from Wheaties, Gillette and Chesterfield cigarettes. He states that his parents did not like his endorsing a cigarette brand, and that he himself had never smoked, but that he did it for the money.

Keywords: Baseball endorsements; Chesterfield Cigarettes; Endorsements; Money; Wheaties

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball players; Gillette Safety Razor Company

01:02:03 - Agents for broadcasters

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Partial Transcript: Well... does there, was there anything else that, that, that, um, happened to you as far as, like did you ever have an agent...

Segment Synopsis: Kell discusses his not having an agent until he became a broadcaster, and how players at that time did not have agents, and negotiated their own contracts. He tells how he once demanded $51,000 a year, but ended up with $45,500.

Keywords: Advertising; Agents; Baseball agents; Baseball salaries; Broadcasters; Broadcasting; Salaries

Subjects: American League (Major League Baseball); Baseball managers; Baseball players; Kell, George; Minor league baseball.

01:06:28 - Detroit Tigers teammates of 1950

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Partial Transcript: What I would like to do is go a couple of the baseball players that you had in the Detroit club, and give your recollections of them briefly.

Segment Synopsis: Kell talks about some of his fellow players of the 1950 team, and states that if they played at the time of the interview (1988), some of them would be superstars in Major League baseball.

Keywords: Bob Swift; Dick Wakefield; Eddie Mayo; Hoot Evers; Jared Pretty; Johnny Groth; Johnny Palm; Outfielders; Pat Mullin; Short Stops; Vick Wurtz; Whitey Ford

Subjects: Baseball managers; Baseball players; Catchers (Baseball); Detroit Tigers (Baseball Team); Major League Baseball (Organization); Minor league baseball.; Pitchers (Baseball)

01:17:45 - A teammate's tragedy / alternate careers for baseball players

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, uh, well, his wife, uh, wasn't the baby killed?

Segment Synopsis: Kell talks about the personal tragedy of a teammate, and how players used to drive their families home and then drive for hours to get back to work. He also discusses some of the players who did not perform well in baseball, but were successful outside of it.

Keywords: Car accidents; Spring training; Ted Gray

Subjects: Baseball players; Pitchers (Baseball)

01:20:50 - Baseball managers

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Partial Transcript: Um, you had some, well Red Roff (??) was, was the manager.

Segment Synopsis: Kell talks about some of the managers he worked with, and the relationship between players and managers.

Keywords: Billy Martin; Don Calloway; Umpires

Subjects: Baseball managers; Baseball players; Baseball umpires; Catchers (Baseball)

01:27:00 - Hitting for the cycle

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Partial Transcript: You, uh, going to the, going back to the '50 season, on June second...

Segment Synopsis: Kell talks about the day that he hit a single,double, triple, and a home run, a rare feat for a baseball player.

Keywords: "Hitting for the cycle"; Baseball cycles

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball players; Kell, George

01:29:13 - Success of the New York Yankees

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Partial Transcript: The team uh, that during that period of time, and then later in the '50s, that threw out most of their...

Segment Synopsis: Kell discusses the success of the New York Yankees.

Keywords: Whitey Ford

Subjects: American League (Major League Baseball); Baseball; Baseball managers; Baseball players; DiMaggio, Joe, 1914-1999; National League (Major League Baseball); New York Yankees (Baseball Team); Williams, Ted, 1918-2002

01:36:19 - Kell's hitting strategy

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Partial Transcript: I just always felt like when I was hitting, I, I left the dugout with a plan for hitting, a game plan, and I knew what I was going to do.

Segment Synopsis: Kell discusses his strategy for hitting, and gives his opinion on how the hitters of the time of the interview (1988) are not the same as they were during his time in baseball.

Keywords: Baseball Pitchers; Boston Red Soxs; baseball hitters

Subjects: Baseball; Kell, George; Williams, Ted, 1918-2002

01:42:48 - Baseball team owners

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Partial Transcript: Talking about about a couple of owners, did you know Mr. Briggs at all?

Segment Synopsis: Kell discusses the owners of the different teams that he played for during his baseball career.

Keywords: Chrysler Motors

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball team owners; Boston Red Sox (Baseball Team); Mack, Connie, 1862-1956

01:46:46 - Changes in baseball since the 1940s

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Partial Transcript: I'd like to ask you one more general question just basically about the differences in baseball during that period of time...

Segment Synopsis: George Kell discusses some the ways that baseball has changed since he was a player. In specific, he discusses equipment, uniforms, field surfaces and player styles.

Keywords: Artificial surfaces; Baseball equipment; Baseball uniforms; Rawlings baseballs

Subjects: Baseball; Kell, George

01:52:11 - Demise of the Minor Leagues

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Partial Transcript: Um, I guess another thing too that we have, basically the demise of the Minor Leagues.

Segment Synopsis: Kell discusses the downfall of the Minor Leagues, the rise of college baseball, and the media. He also discusses how improved travel has changed the pace of the game.

Keywords: Media; Role of media; Travel

Subjects: Baseball--United States; Minor league baseball.

01:56:57 - Player pension plans / drinking and drug use

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Partial Transcript: What is, what is the pension plan?

Segment Synopsis: Kell discusses the role that pensions play in the career of a baseball player. He states his opinion that current baseball players are "greedy", and tells how he saved money and worked hard to be financially secure. He also discusses drinking and drug use. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Alcohol; Alcohol use; Baseball pensions; Drug use; Drugs; Financial security; Greed; Player pension plan; Retirement

Subjects: Baseball; Baseball players; Drug addiction; Retirement