George Kell & Yogi Berra – Try To Strike Us Out!

The Most George Kell Ever Struck Out In A Season Was 37 Times, Yogi Berra 38

George Kell Is Out At Home Plate Yogi berra Applies the tag 1955 Both players rarely struck out.

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?

Yogi Berra
born: May 12, 1925
died: September 22, 1015

Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA
1946 21 NYY AL 7 23 22 3 8 1 0 2 4 0 0 1 1 .364
1947 22 NYY AL 83 306 293 41 82 15 3 11 54 0 1 13 12 .280
1948 23 NYY AL 125 497 469 70 143 24 10 14 98 3 3 25 24 .305
1949 24 NYY AL 116 443 415 59 115 20 2 20 91 2 1 22 25 .277
1950 25 NYY AL 151 656 597 116 192 30 6 28 124 4 2 55 12 .322
1951 26 NYY AL 141 594 547 92 161 19 4 27 88 5 4 44 20 .294
1952 27 NYY AL 142 603 534 97 146 17 1 30 98 2 3 66 24 .273
1953 28 NYY AL 137 557 503 80 149 23 5 27 108 0 3 50 32 .296
1954 29 NYY AL 151 651 584 88 179 28 6 22 125 0 1 56 29 .307
1955 30 NYY AL 147 615 541 84 147 20 3 27 108 1 0 60 20 .272
1956 31 NYY AL 140 596 521 93 155 29 2 30 105 3 2 65 29 .298
1957 32 NYY AL 134 545 482 74 121 14 2 24 82 1 2 57 24 .251
1958 33 NYY AL 122 476 433 60 115 17 3 22 90 3 0 35 35 .266
1959 34 NYY AL 131 521 472 64 134 25 1 19 69 1 2 43 38 .284
1960 35 NYY AL 120 404 359 46 99 14 1 15 62 2 1 38 23 .276
1961 36 NYY AL 119 436 395 62 107 11 0 22 61 2 0 35 28 .271
1962 37 NYY AL 86 263 232 25 52 8 0 10 35 0 1 24 18 .224
1963 38 NYY AL 64 164 147 20 43 6 0 8 28 1 0 15 17 .293
1964 DID NOT PLAY
1965 40 NYM NL 4 9 9 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .222
19 Y 19 Y 19 Y 19 Y 2120 8359 7555 1175 2150 321 49 358 1430 30 26 704 414 .285

George Kell
born: August 23, 1922
died: March 24, 2009

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA
1943 20 PHA AL 1 5 5 1 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 .200
1944 21 PHA AL 139 556 514 51 138 15 3 0 44 5 2 22 23 .268
1945 22 PHA AL 147 602 567 50 154 30 3 4 56 2 0 27 15 .272
1946 23 TOT AL 131 577 521 69 168 25 10 4 52 3 2 40 20 .322
1946 23 PHA AL 26 100 87 3 26 6 1 0 11 0 0 10 6 .299
1946 23 DET AL 105 477 434 66 142 19 9 4 41 3 2 30 14 .327
1947 24 DET AL 152 662 588 75 188 29 5 5 93 9 11 61 16 .320
1948 25 DET AL 92 414 368 47 112 24 3 2 44 2 2 33 15 .304
1949 26 DET AL 134 613 522 97 179 38 9 3 59 7 5 71 13 .343
1950 27 DET AL 157 724 641 114 218 56 6 8 101 3 3 66 18 .340
1951 28 DET AL 147 674 598 92 191 36 3 2 59 10 3 61 18 .319
1952 29 TOT AL 114 483 428 52 133 23 2 7 57 0 2 46 23 .311
1952 29 DET AL 39 171 152 11 45 8 0 1 17 0 1 15 13 .296
1952 29 BOS AL 75 312 276 41 88 15 2 6 40 0 1 31 10 .319
1953 30 BOS AL 134 520 460 68 141 41 2 12 73 5 2 52 22 .307
1954 31 TOT AL 97 370 326 40 90 13 0 5 58 1 1 33 15 .276
1954 31 BOS AL 26 109 93 15 24 3 0 0 10 0 0 15 3 .258
1954 31 CHW AL 71 261 233 25 66 10 0 5 48 1 1 18 12 .283
1955 32 CHW AL 128 504 429 44 134 24 1 8 81 2 2 51 36 .312
1956 33 TOT AL 123 480 425 52 115 22 2 9 48 0 1 33 37 .271
1956 33 CHW AL 21 91 80 7 25 5 0 1 11 0 0 8 6 .313
1956 33 BAL AL 102 389 345 45 90 17 2 8 37 0 1 25 31 .261
1957 34 BAL AL 99 345 310 28 92 9 0 9 44 2 0 25 16 .297
15 Y 15 Y 15 Y 15 Y 1795 7529 6702 880 2054 385 50 78 870 51 36 621 287 .306

 

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