Born on September 9, 1920, George Kissell defined The Cardinal Way as a player and teaching leader of the St. Louis Cardinals organization since 1940. To help put that it into perspective, Tony La Russa was still over four years away from birth when Kissell first donned the birds on the bat.
Sadly, Kissell passed away on October 7
due to injuries suffered in an automobile accident near his
On Saturday in St. Pete, Kissell's colleagues, family and friends came together for a celebration of his life and legacy.
Most fittingly, the locale was the former spring training home of the Cardinals for 57 years, Al Lang Stadium, of which there have been three incarnations. Of course, Kissell worked at all three, having returned to Florida as a minor leaguer with the Cardinals in 1946 following his service in the Navy and the end of World War II travel restrictions that caused the club to remain north to train.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, a small stage was erected over the home plate area and was surrounded with Kissell memorabilia, including his number 3 jersey, his fungo bats, a stadium seat autographed by five Cardinals greats, flower wreaths, including one fashioned after a baseball and more.
Cardinals Director of Minor League
Operations John Vuch was among the delegation of club executives and former
players that traveled to
"The service was a fitting tribute
for an incredible man who had a positive impact on countless people. Those
chosen to speak at the ceremony represented an ideal cross-section of current
and former Cardinals coaches, players, staff members, as well as family and
friends," explained Vuch on Sunday upon his return to
There were 200 people in the seats, estimated the Times. Among the former Cardinals major league players in the house were Keith Hernandez, Dal Maxvill, John Mabry, Joe McEwing and Mike DiFelice.
"One thing that was really impressive was the large number of former Cardinals players and staff that came to the memorial. It really shows the lasting effect of George's influence when people who haven't been with the organization for many years make the effort to come to St. Pete to honor him," observed Vuch.
Current and former staffers paying
their respects included manager Tony La Russa (shown here with Kissell in 2004)
along with ex-Louisville Cardinals manager Jim Fregosi, former Minor League
Field Coordinator Jim Riggleman,
Maloney and De John are among the past winners of the George Kissell Award, instituted by the organization in 2002 to recognize excellence in player development.
Cardinals Chairman and Chief
Executive Officer William O. DeWitt, Jr. also spoke. Among his pronouncements
was that the Cardinals' four practice fields in Jupiter
will forever be named in Kissell's honor.
"All of the speakers did a tremendous job of expressing the affection and respect that we all had for George - there were lots of stories about him, resulting in plenty of laughs and a few tears as well," Vuch said.
The Cardinals minor league executive spoke for those in attendance and countless more who could not when he observed, "We lost somebody who served as a coach, mentor and friend to many of us, and while none of us will ever be able to duplicate what he's done for the Cardinals, we'll always strive to follow his example of how to do things the right way on and off the field."
Of course, that's The Cardinal Way!
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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