When it comes to the radio and television broadcasts of Detroit Tiger baseball, fans throughout Michigan have certainly been spoiled when you consider we have been blessed with some great announcers over the years that have included Ty Tyson, Harry Heilmann, Van Patrick, Ernie Harwell, Paul Carey, George Kell and Al Kaline.
That lineup has certainly been a hard act to follow for today’s radio team of Dan Dickerson and Jim Price and the television crew of Mario Impemba and Rod Allen. These gentlemen certainly do their best and I am sure that they have developed their own loyal following
However from the aspect of hearing real insight into the game along with they joy of following the Tigers, it is hard to top the television broadcast team of former Tiger stars George Kell and Al Kaline.
No other Tiger broadcasters shared the microphone as long as these two Hall of Famers. For 21 seasons, from 1976 through 1996 when Kell retired, the duo brought the game into our homes with Kell serving as the play by play man and Kaline providing the color commentary. (Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey are the closest with 19 years together.)
Although Ernie Harwell is most often considered the “voice of summer” in Detroit, I believe George Kell, who broadcast Tiger games for 37 seasons, was every bit as important and special. Why Kell was never honored with the Hall of Fame’s Ford Frick Award for broadcasting is beyond me. It has been a horrible oversight.
Many of us tried to imitate Kell using his favorite “Kellism” in an attempted Arkansas accent.
“Kout!” (inside pitch to the head) “They’re going to wave him……….” “This ball is well hit, it might be and….. it…….. is……. Gone!…….. a home run for Willie Horton.” “He hit it like a bullet.” “You are so right Al Kaline.”
Although Kaline was sometimes a bit stiff in the booth, he meshed so well with George Kell when he gave his insights.
I’ll never forget the broadcast of July 12, 1979 when Kell and Kaline tried to describe the riot at Comiskey Park during “Disco Demolition Night”. The second game of the Tigers White Sox doubleheader had to be forfeited to the Tigers because of the disturbance on the field when firecrackers and vinyl records were blown up on the field. Even home plate was partially removed. George simply said, “Al, this is just un-American.”
I hope you enjoy this clip of Kell and Kaline in the booth.