The Most George Kell Ever Struck Out In A Season Was 37 Times, Yogi Berra 38
Calling While He’s Out
Chicago: Umpire Ed Hurley (left) calls White Sox George Kell (second from right) out at home on Kell’s try at scoring from first base on Walt Dropo’s first inning double against the Yankees July 20th in Chicago. Yogi Berra (right) makes the putout. In foreground is Sox player Jim Rivera. Chicago won 8-6. Credit: United Press Telephoto 7/20/55
Yogi Berra and George Kell were both described by sportswriters as “short and chunky.” Proving that appearance doesn’t reflect talent, both players were inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame, Berra in 1972 and Kell in 1983.
The Hall of Fame is not the only thing the two players had in common.
While today’s players don’t seem to give a second thought to striking out five times in a game, Berra and Kell rarely heard the words “strike three,” from an umpire.
When polled by reporters about the best players, major leaguers recognized their peers strengths. They agreed that Berra, Kell, Nellie Fox, Peanuts Lowrey, Billy Goodman and Dale Mitchell were the toughest to strike out.
While you’d think there is no comparison between Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra as to who was the better hitter, many felt that Berra was tougher to face than Mantle because of Berra’s propensity to make contact.
During the 1956 World Series Brooklyn Dodger great Jackie Robinson had a close-up view as to who was a tougher foe, Mantle or Berra. “In my opinion, Berra can hurt you more,” Robinson insisted. “Mantle can be fooled and you can throw the ball by him. Berra is hard to strike out and can do more damage.”
In 1957, Washington Senators manager Chuck Dressen acknowledged Berra’s keen eye, “I have a lot of respect for Mantle, but I’ve got more respect for Berra. Yogi gets the hits that wins games. You can strike out Mantle, but you can’t strike out Berra. He’s the best .280 hitter baseball ever saw.”
In Their Careers, Kell Whiffed 287 Times & Berra 414 Times
The most Yogi Berra ever struck out in a full season was in 1959 when he fanned 38 times in 521 plate appearances while batting .284. In his 19 year career, Berra struck out a total of 414 times.
George Kell was even tougher to fan. In his 15 years in the big leagues Kell struck out just 287 times in 7,529 plate appearances. Kell whiffed 20 or fewer times in nine of his fifteen seasons. With the Detroit Tigers in 1949, Kell struck out just 13 times while capturing the batting title with a .343 batting average.
In 1952 when Kell was with the Red Sox, Associated Press reporter Frank Eck asked American League batters about hitting. Several had the same response, “Find out how George Kell does it.”
Kell had a hitting philosophy that worked well for him and was team oriented. Kell explained, “Don’t be a guess hitter. However I look for a certain pitch. If it isn’t what I like, I take it. When you face a good curve ball pitcher you naturally look for the curve.”
When Kell was with the Red Sox and the nearby left field wall (“the green monster”) was beckoning, Kell divulged to writer Ed Rumill a simple hitting plan. “I can pull the ball to left field when the pitch is inside. A fellow can’t be a good hitter and aim at this left field wall with every swing.”
Kell continued with his pragmatic philosophy, “You’ve got to make up your mind one way or the other. But I say if you hit with the pitch, that is – pull the inside pitch, hit the one down the middle straight-away, and push the outside ball to right field – you’ll hit enough balls over the wall here.”
On an outside pitch Kell knew what worked, “I’ve got to go to right field with the pitch that breaks away from me, otherwise I’d just hit fly balls to center field.”
Kell was also considered an expert on the hit and run play and very adept at hitting behind the runner.
How does Kell’s hitting style play in 2019? Analytics? Go for the fences on every swing? The shift?
Are any players today taking note of Kell’s advice to go with the pitch?
On the other hand, lefty, Yogi Berra was noted for being a bad pitch hitter. He could drive a ball to either gap whether the ball was literally at his ankles; up by his shoulders; close to his wrists or way off the plate. Yet Berra had a good eye and consistently walked many more times than he struck out in almost every season he played.
In 1950 Berra came to the plate 621 times and fanned a minuscule 12 times. Berra’s other numbers were just as impressive with a .322 batting average, 28 home runs, 128 RBIs and 55 walks. In the 1950 MVP balloting, teammate Phil Rizzuto won the award, and Red Sox second baseman Billy Goodman finished second, Berra was third and Kell fourth.
Though Berra never led the league in any category during his entire career, he won the American League Most Valuable Player award in 1951, 1954 and 1955.
Below are Berra’s and Kell’s career statistics.
Will we ever see low strikeout ratios like this from any hitter again?
born: May 12, 1925
died: September 22, 2015
|19 Y||19 Y||19 Y||19 Y||2120||8359||7555||1175||2150||321||49||358||1430||30||26||704||414||.285|
born: August 23, 1922
died: March 24, 2009
|15 Y||15 Y||15 Y||15 Y||1795||7529||6702||880||2054||385||50||78||870||51||36||621||287||.306|