Longtime Arizona Coach Jerry Kindall Dies

Jerry Kindall, the first person to win a College World Series title as a player and a coach, died Sunday after suffering a stroke. He was 82.

Kindall had an extraordinary career in baseball that spanned several decades and levels of baseball. He was the starting shortstop on the Minnesota Golden Gophers’ 1956 national championship team, played for the Minnesota Twins’ 1965 pennant winning team and coached the Arizona Wildcats to three national championships.

In a statement, Arizona coach Jay Johnson said it was a sad day for the program.

“Jerry Kindall is one of the greatest college baseball coaches of all time, but he was much more than that,” Johnson said. “I don’t think there is anyone that was held in higher regard for the person that they were as Coach Kindall was. He was almost a larger than life person, and when you talk about being an elite coach, and more importantly, an elite person, he was and will continue to be the standard.”

Kindall, a native of St. Paul, Minn., played baseball and basketball for the Gophers. As shortstop and three-hole hitter, he helped them to their first College World Series title in 1956. He hit for the cycle in a victory against Mississippi that still stands as the only cycle in CWS history.

Shortly after winning the CWS, Kindall signed with the Cubs as a bonus baby. He went on to play nine seasons in the major leagues, playing for the Cubs, Indians and finishing his career with his hometown Twins. He was their starting second baseman for much of their run to the pennant, though he did not appear in the World Series.

Kindall’s last season as a player was 1965 and he then moved into coaching. He joined Dick Siebert, whom he played for at Minnesota, on staff at Arizona and in 1973 took over as head coach. He led the Wildcats to national championships in 1976, 1980 and 1986. He is the program’s winningest coach and retired after the 1996 season with an 860-579-7 career record. He was elected to the American Baseball Coaches Association hall of fame in 1991.

As Arizona’s head coach, Kindall tutored future big leaguers such as Terry Francona, the 1980 Golden Spikes Award winner, Trevor Hoffman and Kenny Lofton. Francona is also one of several of Kindall’s pupils who has gone into coaching. Others include Utah coach Bill Kinneberg and former Astros manager Brad Mills, both of whom were teammates of Francona’s in college.

In a statement released by Arizona, Francona said Kindall taught him and the rest of the Wildcats more than baseball.

“Some people talk the talk, he walked the walk,” Francona said. “He lived his life just like you’re supposed to. It’s easy to say things, but he lived it. In a nutshell, he taught us not only to respect the game of baseball, but respect the people in the game. That was the most valuable lesson any of us learned.”

Kindall remained involved in the game following his retirement through broadcasting and his involvement in ABCA. He was widely respected in the coaching profession and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Baseball honored him by naming its Character in Coaching award after him.

Ball State coach Rich Maloney was awarded the honor in 2017 and expressed on Twitter what Kindall meant to him.

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