Those words, among lots of others, were heard by millions of Detroiters for several decades (from 1959-1996) in George Kell's familiar and friendly drawl. He was mostly the play-by-play guy for the Tigers, coupled with such other legends as Ernie Harwell and Al Kaline in both radio and TV broadcasts.
His voice was so smooth and serious, you could almost feel it through the radio. He's part of the old Tigers that I love so much. The great teams of my youth, the great old stadium (now mostly gone with a tiny portion left standing to tease our memories), the fact that so many games were on free TV then. I don't know. It's hard to explain but it was different then.
George Kell was from the old days. The old days I hold in high esteem. I knew Ernie Harwell and George Kell’s voices so well, they were almost like grandfathers to me. I could be blindfolded and pick them out of a room full of people back when I was younger. Today, I don't know the names of the Tigers' announcers, let alone their voices. I don't think I watched one game on TV last year and I may have listened to a few innings on the radio.
And don't get me started on the new stadium. The old stadium was a place for baseball. And beer and hot dogs too, maybe. But that's about it. When the fans got going in the bleachers (which covered damn near half the old stadium), the place literally shook under your feet. Tickets were under 5 bucks – it was a blast. As a card-carrying Tigers bleacher bum, I fondly remember the days when stuff got so out of hand that they only served low-alcohol beer in the bleachers (which were separated from the rest of the stadium with big iron grates).
Or the time this rowdy idiot was messing with people in the bleachers and when a policeman came to tell him to stop, he made the mistake of getting hostile with the cop, who quickly knocked him down the bleacher stairs, to the roar and enjoyment of the crowd. Or the crazy guy who would go to the front and middle of the upper bleachers and stand there with two drink holders in his hands. He would move his hands apart with the drank holders in them and the fans in the entire bleachers would scream.Then he would quickly pull his hands together and everyone would get quiet. He was our conductor and we were an orchestra of maniacs, happily following his lead. Those were the days of George Kell.
I don't even want to get into the stadium today. It's an amusement park, where comfort and entertainment far outshine baseball as the main attraction. I doubt many people even care about the game anymore. They go there to drink frozen drinks and ride farris wheels. Trust me, there were no farris wheels at the old stadium. Not that the new stadium isn't beautiful. It is. In fact, it was designed by a friend and fellow former classmate of mine from Detroit's Cass Tech High. But with it's high-priced tickets, tiny bleacher section and fancy bars and what not, it's just not the same.
It's not the place that makes me think of George Kell and that's whats sad. I'll miss George Kell, not because I really knew him or thought of him often. In fact, I haven't thought about him in years. It's just that his death has brought back memories of an older Detroit that is gone forever.
One thing I learned about Kell after his passing was that he not only was a great broadcaster, he was a really great player. With a lifetime batting over over .300 and a place in Cooperstown, Kell is considered one of the better players in baseball's history.
So goodbye George Kell. Thanks for bringing me the Tigers. Thanks for 1984 and all the glory of that great year. Thanks for everything.
That's the ballgame, folks.