Blog Entry

It was always swell listening to George Kell

Posted on: March 25, 2009 5:29 pm
Edited on: March 25, 2009 6:29 pm
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 Some of you older readers heard about the passing of Hall of Famer George Kell this week and no doubt flashed back to his slick fielding and quick bat for five clubs over 15 seasons in the 1940s and 1950s.

Some of you younger readers saw the news and wondered, who's George Kell?

Then there's a third group, those who lived in Michigan in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and knew him as the television voice of the Detroit Tigers.

That's when and where I cut my baseball teeth, and that was my good fortune.

Ernie Harwell is the legendary radio voice from that part of the country, and I always thought that partly because of Ernie, Kell was underrated for what he did.

Kell, too, helped teach baseball to a generation of fans, describing and illustrating the Tigers with that soft, lilting Arkansas accent. He, too, was part of your extended family each summer if you watched and cared for the Tigers.

He was as pleasant in the summer as Dairy Queen and the county fair, and along about late February or March, often more eagerly anticipated.

Among other things, Kelly represented stability. He worked during the time before broadcasts bounced around the radio dial and the television channel lineup like a free agent utilitymen. Every single season in the 1980s, George Kell and Al Kaline were in the booth. With them on television and Harwell and Paul Carey on WJR radio, things were covered.

Not only was Kell's delivery and accent as addicting as peach cobbler, it was easily imitated. I bet every Michigan high school kid who even had a passing interest in baseball did some version of Kell at some point in his youth.

In 1983 and 1984, George Baier of WRIF radio did a hilarious, spot-on impersonation of Kell and Kaline, culminating in a send-up of The Police's Every Breath You Take. Baier's version, as "George Swell", was Every Swing You Take.

Sample lyrics:

Every Sweet Lou (Whitaker) stab
Every (Chet) Lemon grab
We'll be watching you

I don't know whether or not Kell enjoyed it -- I hope he did, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery -- but for those of us young baseball fans with a bit of a rock 'n' roll tilt, we loved it.

We're all a part of where we came from. I know I'm not alone in being grateful that Kell brought a little bit of Arkansas into Michigan on so many warm, enjoyable summer nights, with the ballgame on television and the thought that anything was possible on the other side of that screen door.

Bless you, George.

Likes: Burgers. ... The World Baseball Classic championship Monday night between Japan and Korea. Textbook baseball and a great atmosphere. My ears are still ringing. ... A boy who looked to be about 7 or 8, walking with his dad (both of them wearing Cubs caps) and opening a pack of baseball cards outside of Peoria Stadium before Wednesday's Indians-Padres game. ... Roster decisions being made daily now. Shouldn't we be to opening day by now? ... Cole Hamels back on the mound in Philadelphia. ... John Smoltz ahead of schedule in Boston. ... U2's new disc, No Line on the Horizon. Not a classic, but some good stuff. ... Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band in rehearsals, preparing for the new tour to begin April 1. What a treat, we get two opening days this year. The baseball version, and the new Springsteen tour version.

Dislikes: OK, I get it, that some Roman Catholics in Detroit are upset that the Tigers' home opener is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. on Good Friday. It's not optimal. But here's a thought: If you're offended, don't go to the game. And don't watch on television or listen on the radio.

Sunblock Day? Warm sun, but temps only in the high 70s. Which isn't bad. It can be over 90 at this time of year in the desert.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"The more you see the less you know
"The less you find out as you go
"I knew much more then than I do now"

-- U2, City of Blinding Lights

 

 

 

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Comments

Since: Jan 20, 2007
Posted on: March 25, 2009 9:52 pm
 

It was always swell listening to George Kell

In that third group, you can also add those of us who lived in NW Ohio.  I grew up a Tigers fan in the Toledo area in the 50s & 60s and enjoyed listening to George Kell describe the Tigers games on TV.  He was a joy to listen to with that southern/Arkansas accent.  It was a long time ago and my memory ain't what it used to be but I think at times, George and Ernie Harwell used to rotate doing a few innings broadcasting on TV and radio both.  If there's anyway you could check on that, I'd be interested in knowing if I remember correctly or not.

Unfortunately for me, I moved to NY after getting married in the 70s and wasn't able to watch/listen to Kell after that.  It was before the internet, so I wasn't able to watch my Tigers until the internet brought the games into everyone's home.  By that time, George's broadcasting days were over.  I'll never forget him though.  He was great to listen to!  Thanks for bringing back some good memories for me.



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