Former Indians Infielder Kindall Passes Away at 82

Longtime Major Leaguer and accomplished collegiate baseball coach Jerry Kindall passed away on Sunday at the age of 82 after suffering a major stroke on Thursday.

Kindall started his MLB career with big shoes to fill and lofty expectations, as the “bonus baby” had the daunting task of replacing Ernie Banks at shortstop for the Chicago Cubs (Kindall cracked the lineup for his first start at shortstop in 1956 when Banks’ consecutive start streak ended at 424 games and later took over for Banks when persistent knee issues forced the future Hall of Famer to relocate to left field). A light hitter in even his best big league seasons, he spent parts of five different seasons in the Majors for the Cubs between 1956 and 1961 and was even credited with referring to the team’s home as the “friendly confines of Wrigley Field” before Chicago dealt him to the Cleveland Indians in late November of 1961.

In a new locale and working exclusively as the Indians’ second baseman in 1962, he put up the best year of his career in Cleveland, appearing in 154 games while hitting .232 with 21 doubles, 13 homers, and 55 RBI. The success would not be sustained, however, as he appeared in 86 games for the Tribe in 1963 (hitting .205 with four doubles, five homers, and 20 RBI) and had played in just 23 games in the 1964 season before he was shipped to Minnesota in June as part of a three-team trade that included the Los Angeles Angels. The Indians received infielder Billy Moran (who had played with the club in 1958 and 1959) from the Angels in the swap, while the Twins received Frank Kostro from the Angels and Minnesota moved Lenny Green and former Indians All-Star Vic Power to Los Angeles.

Kindall - 1963 Topps
Kindall – 1963 Topps

For Kindall, joining the Twins marked a return home. He was born in St. Paul, went to high school there, and even remained in the area for college. He attended the University of Minnesota (and was part of their College World Series winning club in 1956 over the University of Arizona) before he kicked off his pro career.

The homecoming was short-lived for Kindall, however, as he hit .148 with the Twins in 62 games in 1964 and .196 in 125 games in 1965 before being cut at the beginning of the 1966 season. It would mark the end of his nine-year playing career, but life in baseball was only beginning as he joined the coaching staff at the University of Minnesota in 1967. He remained there until 1973, when he was hired by the University of Arizona.

Kindall would serve as head coach of the Wildcats, finding far more success in the dugout than he had on the field. He led the University of Arizona to titles in 1976, 1980, and 1986 before he retired after the 1996 season. He spent time after his coaching career attending Wildcats games and calling NCAA Tournament games on TV. In 2007, Kindall was elected to the College Baseball Hall of Fame.

During his lengthy coaching tenure, he saw several of his players head off to careers in the Majors, including Indians manager Terry Francona, his bench coach Brad Mills, former Indians players Casey Candaele, Ron Hassey, Tommy Hinzo, Kenny Lofton, and Dave Rohde, MLB pitchers Scott Erickson and Trevor Hoffman, and position players Chip Hale and J.T. Snow.

“Some people talk the talk; he walked to walk,” Francona said of his former skipper in a quote in the Arizona Daily Star on Sunday. “He lived his life just like you’re supposed to. 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. That was the most valuable lesson any of us learned.”

Photo: Chicago Sun Tribune

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