Donald Eulon Kessinger (born July 17, 1942 in Forrest City, Arkansas) is an American former professional baseball player and manager. He played in Major League Baseball as a shortstop from 1964 to 1979 for the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago White Sox. A six-time All-Star, he was a light-hitting, defensive specialist who spent the majority of his career as the Chicago Cubs starting shortstop. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he was considered one of the best shortstops in baseball. Kessinger is also notable for being the last player-manager in American League history.
Kessinger in 1973
|Shortstop / Manager|
|Born: July 17, 1942|
Forrest City, Arkansas
|September 7, 1964, for the Chicago Cubs|
|Last MLB appearance|
|July 31, 1979, for the Chicago White Sox|
|Runs batted in||527|
|Career highlights and awards|
A four sport All-State and All-America athlete for the Forrest City High School Mustangs, Kessinger graduated high school in 1960 and went on to the University of Mississippi. During his collegiate years, he earned All-Conference, All-SEC, and All-America honors in both basketball and baseball for the Rebels, and was initiated into the Sigma Nu fraternity. Kessinger also played for the Peoria Pacers, of the Central Illinois Collegiate League (a summer league for collegiate players) in its founding year, 1963. He was signed by the Chicago Cubs as an amateur free agent on June 19, 1964. Kessinger was assigned to play for the Double-A Fort Worth Cats before making his major league debut on September 7, 1964.
He returned to the minor leagues with the neophyte Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs for the 1965 season, but was brought back by the Cubs in June of that year and became their starting shortstop. The 1965 season would mark the first of nine consecutive seasons in which Kessinger would work alongside Cubs' second baseman Glenn Beckert. He ended the season hitting for a .201 batting average and led the National League shortstops in errors but, showed some promise by leading the league in range factor.
As the 1966 season got underway, Kessinger continued to struggle with his hitting when, new Cubs manager Leo Durocher encouraged him to become a switch hitter. With the help of coach Pete Reiser, his hitting began to improve, posting for a .304 batting average during the second half of the season. Durocher made Kessinger his lead off hitter, a spot he would hold for many years. He ended the year with a career-high .274 batting average and led the league's shortstops with 474 assists.
Kessinger continued to improve his fielding and in 1968, he was recognized as one of the top shortstops in the league when he was voted to be the starting shortstop for the National League in the 1968 All-Star Game. At the end of the season, he ranked first among the league's shortstops in range factor and, led the entire league in assists. While he also led the league in errors, he attributed this to the fact that he reached more ground balls than the average shortstop.
Kessinger repeated as an All-Star in 1969, in a year which saw the entire Chicago Cubs infield join him on the 1969 All-Star team, with Kessinger and Cubs' third baseman Ron Santo in the starting line-up. In 1969, he set a major league single-season record for shortstops by playing in 54 games without committing an error, breaking the record previously set by Chico Carrasquel in 1951. The Cubs were in first place in the National League Eastern Division for 180 days of the 1969 season, before going 8-17 in their final 25 games, while the New York "Miracle" Mets went 37-11 in their final 48 games to clinch the Eastern Division pennant. Despite the Cubs' late-season collapse, Kessinger scored 109 runs, hit for a .273 batting average with a career-high 181 hits, including 38 doubles; second-most in the league. He led the league's shortstops in putouts, finished second in fielding percentage and once again led the entire National League in assists. He finished in 15th place in balloting for the 1969 National League Most Valuable Player Award and won his first Gold Glove Award. In his book, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, baseball historian Bill James cited manager Durocher's method of using his regular players everyday without any rest days as a factor in the Cubs' collapse. On September 9, 1969, Kessinger was in the batters box at Shea Stadium when a black cat emerged from under the stands. After staring at Kessinger and Santo (in the on-deck circle), it headed toward the Cubs' bench, where Durocher received a raised tail and hiss.
During a July 4 interview in 1969 with then St. Louis Cardinals sportscaster Harry Caray, Cubs pitcher, Ferguson Jenkins, gave a name to Kessinger's trademark play at shortstop—The Down Pat. Children from throughout WGN's viewing audience widely copied it on playgrounds and in Little League games, and his fellow players typically stood in awe. Carey noted that Kessinger would regularly go to his right, toward left field, spear the ground ball and then, demonstrating a unique agility, reverse while in the air as he whipped the ball toward first base. "Do you think it might be because Don was a great basketball player?" asked Caray. Without hesitation, Jenkins responded, "In the past five games he's made many great plays to his right. Don has this play down pat."
Kessinger had another good season in 1970, producing a .266 batting average while scoring 100 runs. He led the entire league in assists for the third consecutive year and claimed his second Gold Glove Award. On June 17, 1971 he went 6-for-6, becoming the first Cubs with a six hit game in nearly 34 years. He continued to be one of the cornerstones of the Cubs' infield, earning three more All-Star berths in 1971, 1972 and 1974. In October 1975, after 11 seasons with the Cubs, Kessinger was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals—for pitcher Mike Garman and infielder Bobby Hrapmann. He was the last remaining Cub from the 1969 season when they almost won the pennant.
The 33-year-old Kessinger still played well in St. Louis, ending the season with a .320 on-base percentage and was second in the league in range factor. In August 1977, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox—for pitcher Steve Staniland—who were seeking to bolster their infield strength. The White Sox held a "Don Kessinger Night" on September 8, 1978, where 31,000 Chicago baseball fans (said to consist, in Baseball Digest, of nearly equal numbers of Sox and Cubs fans) thanked #11 for his years of service at shortstop. On October 19, 1978, White Sox President Bill Veeck named Kessinger to be the team's player-manager (the last in AL history). He was managing at Comiskey Park on July 12, 1979 when the infamous "Disco Demolition Night" took place, and wisely locked his players in the locker room between games, avoiding the near-riot. With the White Sox languishing in 5th place in the standings, Kessinger resigned on August 2, 1979 and was replaced by Tony La Russa.
In a 16-year major league career, Kessinger played in 2,078 games, accumulating 1,931 hits in 7,651 at bats for a .252 career batting average along with 14 home runs, 527 runs batted in and an on-base percentage of .314. He retired with a .965 fielding percentage. A six-time All-Star, Kessinger won the National League Gold Glove for shortstops in 1969 and 1970. In three different seasons with the Cubs, he turned 100 or more double plays. Kessinger had 6,212 assists during his career, ranking him 14th all-time among major league shortstops. In 1977 he was named the recipient of the Danny Thomas Memorial Award, for his exemplary Christian Spirit in Major League Baseball and, the following year he was the recipient of the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, presented annually to the Major League baseball player who both on and off the field best exemplifies the character of Lou Gehrig. Kessinger received 0.5% of the vote on the Baseball Hall of Fame balloting, 1985, his only appearance on the balloting.
Kessinger married Carolyn Crawley—also from Forrest City—in 1965. Their son Keith Kessinger was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 1989 and had a brief career (nine years, minors and majors, in the Reds and Cubs organizations) as a professional baseball player, and son Kevin was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1992, but was sidelined during his first season with the Geneva (NY) Cubs by a back injury.
Prior to the 1991 season, Kessinger was hired as the head baseball coach at his alma mater, the University of Mississippi. Kessinger would spend six years as the Ole Miss skipper, leading the Rebels to four 30-win seasons. His 1995 team produced a school record for wins, going 40-22 and earning the school's first NCAA Regional bid since 1977. Ole Miss finished on the verge of its first World Series appearance since 1972, placing second at the NCAA Atlantic I Regional behind host-Florida State. Both of his sons had the opportunity to play for their father at Ole Miss. Following the 1996 season, Kessinger resigned his head coaching position to become Mississippi's Associate Athletics Director for Internal Affairs, while concurrently serving as Chair of the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee. He finished with a six-year record of 185-153.
Kessinger was an honoree at the 1976 Chicago Baseball Writers Diamond Dinner, where he was presented with the Ken Hubbs Award, given for exemplary conduct both on and off the field. He has also honored by the Chicago(land) Sports Hall of Fame, Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame, Wrigley Field Walk of Fame, Ole Miss Sports Hall of Fame, Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, National High School Sports Hall of Fame and the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. He was also recognized as the 12th Best Athlete in the history of the Southeastern Conference in 2007 and named to the Ole Miss All-Century Basketball Team in 2008. Presently, he is the President of Kessinger Enterprises, Inc. and owns a real estate business in Oxford, Mississippi.
While writing his 2012 novel "Calico Joe,"—detailing a fictional young player on the Cubs in the early 1970s—author John Grisham drew from Kessinger's memories. "But Grisham gets the baseball right – among the people he consulted while writing the book was Don Kessinger, a longtime friend who was the Cubs' slick-fielding shortstop in the period the flashback portion covers."
The 1964 Chicago Cubs season was the 93rd season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 89th in the National League and the 49th at Wrigley Field. The Cubs finished eighth in the National League with a record of 76–86, 17 games behind the NL and World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.1964 College Baseball All-America Team
An All-American team is an honorary sports team composed of the best amateur players of a specific season for each team position—who in turn are given the honorific "All-America" and typically referred to as "All-American athletes", or simply "All-Americans". Although the honorees generally do not compete together as a unit, the term is used in U.S. team sports to refer to players who are selected by members of the national media. Walter Camp selected the first All-America team in the early days of American football in 1889.From 1947 to 1980, the American Baseball Coaches Association was the only All-American selector recognized by the NCAA.1966 Chicago Cubs season
The 1966 Chicago Cubs season was the 95th season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 91st in the National League and the 51st at Wrigley Field. The Cubs finished tenth and last in the National League with a record of 59–103, 36 games behind the NL Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cubs would not lose 100 or more games in a season for another 46 seasons. One of the defining trades in Cubs history occurred on April 21, when the Cubs acquired future Cy Young Award winner Ferguson Jenkins in a trade with the Philadelphia Phillies.1970 Chicago Cubs season
The 1970 Chicago Cubs season was the 99th season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 95th in the National League and the 55th at Wrigley Field. The Cubs finished second in the National League East with a record of 84–78.1974 Chicago Cubs season
The 1974 Chicago Cubs season was the 103rd season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 99th in the National League and the 59th at Wrigley Field. The Cubs finished sixth and last in the National League East with a record of 66–96.1976 Chicago Cubs season
The 1976 Chicago Cubs season was the 105th season of the Chicago Cubs franchise, the 101st in the National League and the 61st at Wrigley Field. The Cubs finished fourth in the National League East with a record of 75–87.1976 St. Louis Cardinals season
The 1976 St. Louis Cardinals season was the team's 95th season in St. Louis, Missouri and the 85th season in the National League. The Cardinals went 72–90 during the season and finished fifth in the National League East, 29 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies.1977 Chicago White Sox season
The 1977 Chicago White Sox season was a season in American baseball. The team finished third in the American League West, 12 games behind the Kansas City Royals.1977 St. Louis Cardinals season
The 1977 St. Louis Cardinals season was the team's 96th season in St. Louis, Missouri and its 86th season in the National League. The Cardinals went 83–79 during the season and finished third in the National League East, 18 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies.
Vern Rapp took over as the Cardinals' manager this year, after the twelve-year reign of their longtime manager Red Schoendienst. On August 29, Cardinals left-fielder Lou Brock broke the modern-day stolen base record, by stealing bases 892 and 893 in a game against the Padres in San Diego.1978 Chicago White Sox season
The 1978 Chicago White Sox season was the team's 78th season in Major League Baseball, and its 79th overall. They finished with a record 71-90, good enough for fifth place in the American League West, 20.5 games behind the first-place Kansas City Royals.1979 Chicago White Sox season
The 1979 Chicago White Sox season was the team's 80th season overall, and their 79th in Major League Baseball. They finished with a record 73-87, good enough for fifth place in the American League West, 15 games behind the first-place California Angels.1985 Baseball Hall of Fame balloting
Elections to the Baseball Hall of Fame for 1985 followed the system in place since 1978.
The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) voted by mail to select from recent major league players and
elected two, Lou Brock and Hoyt Wilhelm.
The BBWAA petitioned the Hall of Fame Board of Directors to reconsider the eligibility of Ken Boyer, Curt Flood and Ron Santo with the intention of restoring their names to the 1985 ballot. Each had failed to achieve 5% in their first years on the ballot (Boyer, 1975–79, Flood, 1977–79 and Santo, 1980). The Board approved and Boyer, Flood and Santo returned to the ballot.
The Veterans Committee met in closed sessions to consider older major league players as well as managers, umpires, executives, and figures from the Negro Leagues.
It also selected two players, Enos Slaughter and Arky Vaughan.Dallas–Fort Worth Spurs
The Dallas–Fort Worth Spurs were an American minor league baseball team in the Texas League from 1965–1971. The team played in Turnpike Stadium in Arlington, Texas.The Spurs were created when the Triple-A Dallas Rangers moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1965. With the opening of Turnpike Stadium, the Double-A Texas League's Fort Worth Cats, an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, moved into the new venue and adopted the regional Dallas-Fort Worth designation and the Spurs nickname.The Spurs were affiliated with the Cubs (1965–1967), Houston Astros (1968) and Baltimore Orioles (1969–1971).As a Cubs' affiliate, the Spurs groomed future Major League players Don Kessinger, Chuck Hartenstein, Joe Niekro, Fred Norman and Bill Stoneman. The club's one season in the Houston organization was lean in terms of prospects, with Fred Stanley and Danny Walton enjoying the longest big-league careers. During their affiliation with Baltimore, the Spurs featured Don Baylor, Bobby Grich, Enos Cabell and Wayne Garland, along with managers Cal Ripken Sr. and Joe Altobelli and batboy Cal Ripken Jr.
The Spurs set many Texas League attendance records, especially after Turnpike Stadium expanded to a capacity of 20,500 in 1970. The Dallas-Fort Worth area was considered a prime location for an expansion team or a re-located franchise. Indeed, Turnpike Stadium had been built specifically to attract a major-league team to the Metroplex. That dream nearly came to fruition when the National League expanded in 1969. But the league instead expanded to Montreal, with the Expos.Two years later, the struggling Washington Senators received American League permission to transfer to the area in 1972 as the Texas Rangers, who moved into Turnpike Stadium (expanded and renamed Arlington Stadium).Harry Chappas
Harry Perry Chappas (born October 26, 1957 in Mount Rainier, Maryland) was a shortstop with the Chicago White Sox from 1978 until 1980. Though he appeared in only 72 career games, he became a cult hero on the South Side due primarily to his stature. Chappas was measured by Harry Caray and publicly declared to be 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m), an inch or two shorter than established star Freddie Patek. He was one of the shortest players in Major League history, although Chappas stated in an interview in Sports Illustrated that he was closer to 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m), and implied that team owner Bill Veeck exaggerated his short stature for publicity reasons.Chappas signed with the White Sox in 1976 as a 6th round draft pick. He impressed Veeck with good performances for the Appleton Foxes in 1978. This earned him a September callup, where he hit an effective .267 in 20 games.
Primarily due to his height, he gained more and more national interest, highlighted by an appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated during spring training in 1979. In spring training that year, he unseated veteran Don Kessinger and became the opening day shortstop. He lost his job after 2 weeks after missing a sign as a baserunner, only returning in September. He made the opening day roster the following year as well, but only as a reserve player, and he was subsequently sent to the minors after hitting .160 in 50 at bats.
Overall, Chappas hit .245 in the majors and hit a single home run, off the Brewers' Bill Travers, in 1979.Joe Gates
Joseph Daniel Gates (October 3, 1954 – March 28, 2010) was a professional baseball player. He played parts of two seasons in Major League Baseball for the Chicago White Sox.
His only extra base hit was a triple on May 13, 1979 against the Kansas City Royals. He had come on as a pinch hitter for Don Kessinger and stayed in the game and played second base. The pitcher for the Royals was Eduardo Rodriguez. The hit drove in Greg Pryor in the bottom of the 9th. The final score of the game was Royals 14, White Sox 5.
After his major league career, he entered the coaching ranks. He was the bench coach of the Gary SouthShore RailCats of the Northern League at the time of his death at age 55.Keith Kessinger
Robert Keith Kessinger (born February 19, 1967) is a former Major League Baseball player who played 11 games for the Cincinnati Reds in 1993. He was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 36th round of the 1989 amateur draft, and the Reds purchased his contract in 1991. His ML debut came on September 15, 1993 against the Atlanta Braves. Kessinger went 1 for 2 in the game.Kessinger was the head baseball coach at Arkansas State University from July 2002 to June 2008, compiling a 148–178 record. He spent the two years prior to that as head coach at Carson-Newman College where he compiled a 66–47 record. He also served as an assistant baseball coach at the University of Mississippi for four seasons, where he had previously been a second-team All SEC shortstop.
Keith's father, Don Kessinger, is a former major league baseball player and a six-time all-star.Larry Maxie
Larry Hans Maxie (born October 10, 1940 in Upland, California) is a retired American professional baseball player and scout. During his on-field career he was a right-handed pitcher who appeared in two games in the Major Leagues for the Atlanta Braves on August 30 and 31, 1969. However, Maxie's pitching career extended for 15 seasons (1958–1972), all in the Braves' organization.
Maxie stood 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m) tall and weighed 220 pounds (100 kg). He signed with the Braves when they were still based in Milwaukee and reached the Triple-A level in 1961. But he would be in his 12th year in the Brave organization when he finally made his MLB debut in 1969, working on successive days as a relief pitcher against the Chicago Cubs at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. In three full innings pitched, he allowed one earned run on one hit (a double by Don Kessinger). He issued one base on balls and struck out one (Randy Hundley). He threw two wild pitches. He was on Atlanta's postseason roster for the 1969 National League Championship Series versus the New York Mets, but did not play.
In the minors, Maxie won 125 games. He continued his baseball career as a longtime scout for the Braves and other MLB teams.List of Major League Baseball player-managers
Major League Baseball (MLB) is the highest level of play in North American professional baseball. Founded in 1869, it is composed of 30 teams. Each team in the league has a manager, who is responsible for team strategy and leadership on and off the field. Assisted by various coaches, the manager sets the line-up and starting pitcher before each game, and makes substitutions throughout the game. In early baseball history, it was not uncommon for players to serve as player-managers; that is, they managed the team while still being signed to play for the club. In the history of MLB, there have been 221 player–managers, 59 of whom are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.The dual role of player–manager was formerly a common practice, dating back to John Clapp, who performed the task for the Middletown Mansfields in 1872. One reason for this is that by hiring a player as a manager, the team could save money by paying only one salary. Also, popular players were named player–managers in an effort to boost game attendance. Babe Ruth left the New York Yankees when they refused to allow him to become player–manager. Five of the eight National League (NL) managers in 1934 were also players. Connie Mack, John McGraw, and Joe Torre, among the all-time leaders in managerial wins, made their managerial debuts as player–managers. At least one man served as a player-manager in every major league season from Clapp's debut through 1955.
Today, player–managers have become rare in baseball. Pete Rose is the most recent player–manager, serving from 1984 through 1986 with the Cincinnati Reds. Whereas some player–managers, such as Lou Boudreau, were full-time players as player–managers, by the time Rose became player–manager, he was a part-time player. Rose was trying to prolong his career to break the all-time hit record set by Ty Cobb, and Reds owner Marge Schott used this as a marketing ploy. Rose removed himself from the 40-man roster after the 1986 season to make room for Pat Pacillo, unofficially retiring as a player, but remained as the Reds manager until he was banned from baseball following the release of the Dowd Report in 1989.
One criticism of the practice holds that the manager has enough to be preoccupied with during a game without playing. With specialized bullpens, extensive scouting reports, and increased media scrutiny, the job of a manager has become more complex. A player–manager needs to decide how much playing time to give himself. Don Kessinger, player–manager of the Chicago White Sox in 1979, believes he did not play himself enough. Additionally, Bill Terry felt he became isolated from his team when he became a player–manager.However, teams continue to consider hiring player–managers. The Toronto Blue Jays considered hiring Paul Molitor as a player–manager in 1997. When approached with the idea in 2000, Barry Larkin reported that he found it "interesting", though general manager (GM) Jim Bowden rejected the idea. In the 2011–12 offseason, the White Sox considered hiring incumbent first baseman Paul Konerko to serve as manager. White Sox GM Kenny Williams said that he believes MLB will again have a player–manager.Nate Oliver
Nathaniel Oliver (born December 13, 1940 in St. Petersburg, Florida) had a seven-year major league career in the 1960s, mostly with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Nate is the son of Jim Oliver, Sr., who had played in the Negro leagues. James Oliver Field in St. Petersburg, named after Nate's father, was the first field to be refurbished under the Tampa Bay Devil Rays Field Renovation Programs. Nate's brother, Jim, also played professional baseball.
Nate was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1959. He hit just .224 for the Green Bay Blue Jays and Fox Cities Foxes that year. In 1960, he hit .329 for the Great Falls Electrics and appeared ever so briefly for the St. Paul Saints. He played in the minors for the Spokane Indians in 1961-65 and in 1967, topping .300 in '62-'63. He came up to the majors for the first time in 1963, a year the Dodgers won the World Series. He appeared in 65 games, playing primarily second base, and hitting .239. He did not play in the World Series.
The next year, in 1964 at age 23, Nate had his most at-bats in the major leagues, getting 321 at-bats in 99 games. He hit .243 with 9 doubles and stole 7 bases.
In 1965 he appeared in only 8 games with the Dodgers, but in 1966 he played in 80 games with a .193 average. He appeared in game 4 of the World Series as a pinch-runner.
In 1967, his batting average improved to .237 in 77 games.
In the off-season, he was traded to the San Francisco Giants in the deal involving Ron Hunt and Tom Haller. He appeared in only 36 games in 1968, hitting .178/.189/.205.
In the off-season before 1969, he was traded to the Yankees, and played one game with them before they traded him to the Cubs, where he finished out his career in 44 games hitting .159. It was the Cubs team that everyone expected to win the division, but finished second instead. Glenn Beckert was the regular second baseman and played amongst infielders Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and Don Kessinger.
In 1989, Oliver managed the Arizona League Angels, and in 1990-91 he was at the helm of the Palm Springs Angels. In 1998, Oliver managed the Arizona League Cubs and in 1999 managed the Daytona Cubs, and in 2000 was a roving infield instructor in the Cubs organization. In 2003, he took over the managerial reins of the Saskatoon Legends of the Canadian Baseball League in mid-season from Ron LeFlore.
In 2006, Nate was the bunting instructor for the Chicago White Sox organization.
1964 College Baseball All-America Team selections