What Ernie Harwell was to Detroit Tigers baseball on radio, George Kell was just as popular in his prime, in my mind, on television. Kell died Tuesday in his sleep at his home in Swifton, Arkansas at the age of 86. He called Tigers' games on television for 37 years, stepping down after the 1996 season. He had two longtime co horts, Larry Osterman and Al Kalilne. Osterman was the sports anchor at channel 3 in Kalamazoo, a Fetzer station. John Fetzer owned the Tigers and he hired Kell to join with Osterman on the games, about 30 to 40 a year. They were friendly and easy to listen to and they knew the game.
I remember Kell as being fiercely loyal to the Tigers and to Fetzer. That's why he lasted so long and in our profession, those who are loyal to the management tend to stick around a lot longer than those who have all the answers. Kell loved the Tigers even though he only played for them from 1946-52. He had that southern drawl from Arkansas and he was easy to imitate. He and Harwell never had problems because they were on different mediums. Kell was a part of the World Series championship years in 1968 and 1984 and it all seemed to natural. What Harry Caray was to the Cubs for years, so was Kell to the Tigers.
I'll remember him well, so pleasant. When Tiger Stadium closed after the 1999 season he was among the players invited to attend a big post game on field ceremony after the final game. He was interviewed and had tears streaming down his cheeks with all the memories he thought about. I'll never forget that. Kell loved baseball and he was a very good player, one of only 11 third basemen in the Hall of Fame. He was enshrined in 1983. He was a key personality for the Tigers and he helped people relate to the team for so many years. Rest in Peace George.