Thursday, July 17, 2014

Happy Baseball Birthday...Don Kessinger

Today's Happy Baseball Birthday is former Chicago Cubs  shortstop Don Kessinger.

Growing up in Portage, Michigan, in the early 1970s, was a baseball fans dream.

In addition to my Detroit Tigers radio and TV games we also received the Cubs and Chicago White Sox games on radio and cable tv.

The Cubs were on tv every night on WGN, and every Cubs home game was a day game.

Many times I was able to watch a double header of a Cubs home tilt and a Tigers road game at night.

The Cubs had a great infield in the late '60s and early 70's with Jim Hickman at first base, Glen Beckert ar second, Ron Santo at third, and my favorite Cub player, Don Kessinger, at shortstop.

Donald Eulon Kessinger was born on July 17, 1942,  in Forrest City, Arkansas.

Don played high school baseball at Forrest City HS, where he was a 4 sport All Star and All American while playing for the Mustangs. 

Don then went on to play college baseball at Mississippi, where he was an All SEC and All American in both basketball and baseball for the Rebels.

Kessinger played for the Peoria Pacers of the Central Illinois summer league in 1963, and was signed by the Cubs as a amateur free agent in 1964.

Don played for the Double-A Forth Worth Cats in 1964 before making his big league debut on September 7, 1964, at the age of 22.

In 1965 Don started the baseball seasin with Dallas-Forth Worth before getting called up to the big leagues for good.

A terrific shortstop,  Kessinger won the National League Gold Glove in 1969 and 1970.

Kessinger is my favorite All Time Cubs player, and it was probably in part because as a kid I noticed that he was wearing #11 for the Cubs, the same number worn by my baseball hero, Tigers catcher Bill Freehan. 

Wearing my hero's #11 may have been a reason to notice Kessinger,  but his play was why I loved to watch him as the Cubbies shortstop.

Don played in just 4 games after that September call up to Chicago in '64, and in 1965 he played in 106 games, becoming the Cubs starting shortstop, where, next to Beckert, the two would play until 1973.

Kessinger led the National League in assists in 1966, 68, 69.
In 1969 Kessinger's .976 fielding percentage ked the Senior Circuit.

Kessinger played in 2,078 baseball games, 1, 955 of them at shortstop, swatting 1,931 base hits, scoring 899 runs, with 254 doubles, 80 triples, 684 walks, 14 home runs, and 527 RBI in 7, 651big league at bats.

Kessinger played on the North Side of Chicago until 1975, when the Cubs traded him to the rival St. Louis Cardinals in the iff season.

In 1977, after 59 games in St, Louis, the Cardinals traded Kessinger to the White Sox. 

On September 8, 1978, the ChiSox held "Don Kessinger Night, " a tribute that attracted 31,000 fans to old Comiskey Park.

Reports from the ball park that night stated that half the 31,000 in attendance were Cubs fans, who came to honor their former shortstop. 

White Sox owner Bill Veeck named Don the manager of the South Siders on October 19, 1978, and he served as ChiSox player/Manager in 1979, the last American League player to hold that distinction.

Kessinger played in just 56 games for the '79 ChiSox, playing in his final big league game on July 31stm at the age of 37.
With the club in last place, he resigned as the Chicago White Sox skipper on August 2nd.

Don Kessinger was a terrific ballplayer, and an even better person.

In 1976 the Cubs honored Kessinger with the Ken Hubbs Award,  for his exemplary conduct on and off the ball field.

Kessinger was honored in 1977 with the Danny Thomas Award for Christian Spirit in baseball, and was the 1978 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award recipient.

Don Kessinger went back to his Alma Mater, Ole Miss, becoming the Rebels head baseball coach in 1991.

In six seasons as the Rebels coach, Kessinger compiled a record of 185-153, leading Ole Miss to four 30 win seasons.

In 1996 Kessinger left the baseball team to become the Associate Athletics Director of Internal Affairs at Ole Miss.

Don Kessinger has been honored by and Inducted into the...

●Chicagoland Sports Hallof Fame
●Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame
●Wrigley Field Walk of Fame
●Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame
●Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame
●Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame
●National High School Sports Hall of Fame

Don was also voted to the Ole Miss All Century basketball team in 2008.

Don and his family are in real estate business in Oxford and Watet Valley,  Mississippi, and they can be found at

Happy Baseball Birthday! Don Kessinger!

Play Ball!!

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