Hall of Famer George Kell passed away today at the ripe old age of 86. Mr. Kell will be remembered as one of the true ambassadors of baseball; he was loved by the fans and, in turn, loved every fan back.
I was lucky enough to talk with Kell on several occasions and will never forget him.
My story starts a couple of years back; I had sent him my prized Hall of Fame ball, so that he could add his signature, but the ball was misplaced. After writing to Kell to see what had happened, he immediately called me to apologize and promised to make it up to me.
He explained that he received up to 30 autograph requests every day and had an orderly system of signing things and getting them back to fans in their correct return envelopes. He remembered seeing my ball and told me that someone at the house had also been admiring it and picked it up to look at. This had messed up his system and it was lost.
We talked a couple times after that by phone and through mail correspondence, and he would always tell me how important his family was to him, how much God affected his life, how much every fan's opinion of him counted, and how great it was was to be a member of the Hall of Fame.
He was a proud but quiet man, and in the coming months, he sent me a new signed baseball, a 1988 Team USA signed baseball bat, a Duke Snider-signed Glove, and finally after a year, my Hall of Fame baseball was found by his son under a couch.
I asked him if he wanted all the stuff he had sent me back, and of course he said no, keep it for the trouble.
This is how Kell treated each and every fan. There are many stories about promoters trying to get him to speed up, and he would tell them "these people are paying for my signature, so I will take my time and make sure they are happy," all the while telling stories and posing for pictures.
He loved the game of baseball and spent six decades attached to it in one form or another, as a player, coach, and broadcaster.
George Kell was a true Hall of Famer in every way. I guess God needed a third baseman today and smartly chose the No. 1 man for the job.
Rest in peace, my friend, you will be missed.