A fond farewell to Skeeter Kell

KellSkeeterEverett “Skeeter” Kell is gone at age 85. Another alum from the Philadelphia Athletics has departed.

Previously, Skeeter wrote this moving letter about his Hall of Fame brother:

Bobby Winkles shared this memory of the Kell brothers.

Judge not on stats alone. Great storytellers remain. Here for a limited time only.

 

 

Seeing Angels ( In My Mailbox)!

All the Topps facsimile
signatures say “Bob.” Yet,
the gifted glove man
graces fans with a “Bobby”
for most TTM replies!

When Bobby Hoeft told about conducting a Baseball Chapel that included the 1970s California Angels, I knew the first team of 2012 that I’d be contacting.

When I received such pleasant reports about Nolan Ryan from former skipper Bobby Winkles, it made me think of a different crew of Angels. Not the many free agents that owner Gene Autry gambled on, but the supporting cast of the 1960s now overshadowed by California’s lavish contracts. Think of the 2012 roster. No matter how successful other players are, they’ll all face the initial question of “What’s Albert Pujols really like?”

Here’s 10 overlooked Angels I remembered. I chose to remember them again with a letter. They include:

Earl Averill Jr.
Bob Duliba
Bobby Knoop
Don Lee
Gene Leek
Dan Osinski
Rick Reichardt
George Thomas
Lee Thomas
Gordie Windhorn

Coming Friday: Amazing memories from Louis Clarizio, white Negro Leaguer!

The Pride of Swifton, Arkansas: Bobby Winkles Remembers George, ‘Skeeter’ Kell

Bobby Winkles is still proud of the
company he keeps!

(Photo courtesy of Guy Lancaster and
the Encyclopedia of Arkansas website.)

It’s nice to get a second chance.

I wrote about Bobby Winkles twice in this blog. He sent me an epic letter, describing what it was like to coach Reggie Jackson in college. Later, he recounted the work ethic and sincere charm of pitcher Nolan Ryan while skippering the California Angels.

I asked about everyone but Winkles. He mentioned growing up near Swifton.

Swifton is the hometown of Hall of Famer George Kell and his brother Everett “Skeeter” Kell.

Both Kells made an impact in Winkles’ rise to success. He remembered…

“I was born in Tuckerman, Ark. Moved to Swifton when I was 9 years old.

Skeeter Kell was one year ahead of me at Swifton High School. We didn’t have baseball. Small school, 19 in my graduation class. Skeeter and I played on the Town team. We played each Sunday when our cotton was plowed for the last time. We played Thursday and Sunday.

Skeeter and I were like brothers.

George Kell was my idol. he was my teacher in the 7th grade. There’s a 10 by 15-foot sign on the highway honoring the three of us. The only city in Arkansas to have three major league participants at the major league level.

Swifton had a population of 520. We also have a three-star general, Billy Paul Bowden.

I lived 3-1/2 miles from Swifton on a cotton farm. We lived in a 2-story house. The upstairs windows were boarded up and we had no electricity or plumbing.”


Winkles will be 82 on March 11. I’ve always thought his humble roots would make a good book. He agrees.

“I have a book coming out around the first of the year. Those who have read the manuscript says it’s good reading. Tell your friends. Ha ha.”


Coming Monday: a holiday warning for autograph collectors.

Writing to Dodger Pitcher Carl Erskine: Time To Thank This Tireless Autograph All-Star

Often willing to provide answers to
anything fans ask, Erskine even
adds a signed gift to most replies!

What’s right about the autograph hobby?

Yesterday, I indulged in a rubber-stamping rant. Today, equal time is required.

There are still kind, grateful men from baseball’s past. They aren’t all from the 1940s and ’50s. I discovered a heart-warming story about Giants pitcher Phil Nastu (1978-80) going above and beyond to fulfill a TTM autograph request. I’m hoping to salute him, getting details of why he’d be so dedicated to an unknown collector.

Other names on the latest batch of envelopes launched from BBTL-land:

Bobby Doerr
Boo Ferriss
Carl Erskine

I wanted to send a standing ovation to each of these three signers, too. Each of these men have decades of autograph heroics on Mr. Nastu. Along with saying thanks, I’ve just wanted to ask about their fan mail volume, why they keep delighting everyone who writes, and what we can do to thank them.

I saw on http://www.sportscollectors.net/ that Bob Wiesler and Fred Caligiuri had answered questions for other collectors.

I gasped at the lengthy post-baseball musical career of Dick Adams, a member of the 1947 Philadelphia Athletics. Likewise, I’m stunned at the many charity initiatives of Brewers bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel. I wanted to find out how baseball has inspired each.

I found a recent newspaper profile of pitcher Turk Wendell. I wanted to make sure he had a copy. Also, I’m hoping he’ll explain a couple of his mystical comments from that feature.

Lastly, I realized that former Angels and A’s manager Bobby Winkles may have grown up in the shadow of a Hall of Famer. I’m seeking details.

There’s the game plan behind my latest batch of fan mail. Stay tuned for updates. Meanwhile, I hope you find as many reasons to add names to your want list.

Thursday: Inspiration from Japan.

Angels Skipper Winkles Describes Nolan Ryan As Hard-Working, Humble Hurler

This Topps Card Only
Hints at Winkles’
Storybook Life!

California manager Bobby Winkles arrived to witness Nolan Ryan’s skyrocketing success. What kind of personality did the fastballer sport in 1973?

Winkles replied:

“Nolan Ryan was the hardest working pitcher I ever saw in the major leagues. He was a gentlemen and modest. Nothing cocky about his demeanor.”

Winkles’ resume includes a managerial stint with Oakland, along with longer coaching assignments with the Giants, White Sox and Expos. Surprisingly, he filled in some of those earliest details, long before he was the toast of college coaching ranks.

“I was raised on an 80-acre farm. Biggest crop was cotton. We lived 3-1/2 miles from Swifton, Arkansas, population 526. We didn’t have electricity or plumbing — only pump water — 10 people in a three bedroom house.

I went to Illinois Wesleyan University. Graduated in 1952. Two years in the Army. Signed with the White Sox. Retired from 7 years in minors.

While playing went to Univ. of Colo. Got a master’s degree in two semesters.

Not a bad career for an Arkansas cotton farm boy.

Regards,
Bob Winkles”

Winkles’ story challenged me. That name…

Swifton? Swifton, Arkansas? THAT Swifton, Arkansas!

Hometown of Hall of Famer George Kell. The Post Office is named after him. Seems like Swifton produced more than cotton.

Tomorrow: Retracing Kirby Puckett’s beginnings through autographs.

 

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