Jerry Kindall: Replaced a Hall of Famer and was a Hall of Fame college coach


Jerry Kindall

Jerry Kindall played nine major-league seasons and batted more than 2,000 times despite a .213 average that was reportedly the lowest for any major-league player with more than 2,000 at-bats since 1920. Kindall died last week at 82. But Kindall got high marks as a college coach — he won three NCAA titles and was the first person to win NCAA titles as a player (Minnesota, 1956) and coach — and person. “Some people talk the talk; he walked to walk,” said Indians manager Terry Francona, one of the Arizona players Kindall coached. “… It’s easy to say things, but he lived it. In a nutshell, he taught us not only to respect the game of people, but to respect the people in the game.” The list of players Kindall coached who became major leaguers includes one seemingly about to be voted into the Hall of Fame in reliever Trevor Hoffman. But it’s about as long as a Hall of Fame ballot — Francona, Chip Hale, Scott Erickson, Hoffman, J.T. Snow, Kevin Long, Craig Lefferts, Kenny Lofton, Joe Magrane, etc. Kindall first won the College World Series as a player in 1956 and his Minnesota team beat Arizona to do so. Kindall then signed with the Cubs for a reported $50,000, or $30,000 more than the card above said (that’s not inflation but inaccuracy, apparently). That made Kindall a “bonus baby,” one of 59, according to his bio at sabr.org, in the 1940s-1950s and meant he became an immediate major leaguer for the next two years lest the Cubs lose him to another team. Kindall struck out against Elroy Face in his first at-bat — Kindall, from sabr.org: “Someone told me before I went up to watch for his forkball. So I went up looking for the forkball, but he threw three fastballs” — and didn’t get much better, hitting .161 before spending most of 1958 and all of 1959 in the minors. When he returned to the majors in 1960 he was a utility infielder with modest power, hitting .242 and slugging .419 in 1961 and hitting 13 homers for the Indians in 1962 in his only full season as a starter. Before leaving the Cubs, Kindall replaced Ernie Banks at shortstop in 1961 when the Hall of Famer’s knees necessitated a move to the outfield (Banks moved to first base in 1962). Kindall spent his last season in the majors with the pennant-winning Twins in 1965, playing 125 games. But he got hurt in mid-season and lost playing time to Frank Quilici, who started all seven World Series games against the Dodgers. Kindall didn’t play in the Series. One day before the opener in 1966, Twins owner Calvin Griffith released Kindall with the tactlessness that was his trademark. Kindall, from sabr.org: “Cal … told me, ‘I’ve got you and Quilici, and neither one of you can hit.’ So, I’m giving you a chance to make a deal for yourself.” Kindall made a deal to coach at his alma mater in 1967, took over at Arizona in 1973 and won 860 games until he retired after the 1996 season. He was inducted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. The former field at Arizona was named in Kindall’s honor; Kindall, according to the Chicago Tribune, was instrumental in nicknaming Wrigley Field. From Mark Gonzales’ story at Chicagotribune.com: “Banks told Kindall, ‘Jerry, we’re going home where people are friendly — back to the Friendly Confines.’ Kindall replied, ‘Ah, the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.’” Career numbers: .213 average, 44 homers, .593 OPS, 198 RBIs, 439 hits, 83 doubles, 62 OPS+, 17-28 stealing, -2.9 WAR, 1.4 WAR and 2.3 defensive WAR in 1962, four home runs hit off Hall of Famer Robin Roberts. Kindall from sabr.org: “One time (Roberts) said, ‘Hey kid, how do you hit so well against me?’ I told him at first that I didn’t know but then explained that he gave me good fastballs below the belt. From that point on I got nothing but belt-high fastballs and curves. I don’t know why I said that.”

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