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 St. Petersburg, Florida home the evening
On Saturday in St. Pete, Kissell’s
colleagues, family and friends came together for a celebration of his life and
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
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 Florida to pay their respects.
“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 St.
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, Batavia manager
Mark DeJohn and Memphis skipper Chris
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
Brian Walton can be reached via
email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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