Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Don Kessinger (#225)

Don Kessinger was one of the best shortstops in baseball during the late-1960s and early-1970s, making 6 All-Star teams in a 7-year span.

Kessinger made his pro debut with the Cubs' double-A team in 1964, and made his major-league debut that same year with 4 games in September.

He began the 1965 season in triple-A, but was recalled in mid-June, starting 104 of the final 115 games at shortstop. (Journeyman Roberto Pena had started the first 49 games there.)

Kessinger was the Cubs' regular shortstop from mid-June 1965 through the end of the 1975 season. Along the way, he was named to the All-Star team every season from 1968-72 and again in 1974. Although his highest batting average was .274 and had virtually no power, he was very good defensively, winning the Gold Glove award in '69 and '70.

After just over a decade with the Cubs, Don was traded to the Cardinals after the '75 season for reliever Mike Garman. Kessinger started 105 games at shortstop in his first season with the Cards, but in early August that job was turned over to rookie Garry Templeton.

Don slid over to 2nd base, starting 29 games there during August, until other rookies were given late-season tryouts at THAT position. In 1977, Kessinger hung on as a utility player until he was traded to the White Sox in August for a minor-leaguer.

Don got his feet wet in the AL by backing up Alan Bannister at SS and Jorge Orta at 2B for the remaining 2 months, then in 1978 he put in a full season (almost) as the ChiSox' regular shortstop. After starting 117 games through the first week of September, he once again fell victim to the "September prospect tryout", this time it was someone named Harry Chappas.

In 1979 Kessinger was named player-manager for the Sox. He managed the team to a 46-60 record, then was fired at the start of August, replaced by Tony LaRussa. Not surprisingly, that was also the end of Don’s playing career.

Kessinger managed the University of Mississippi baseball team for 6 seasons in the 1990s.

His son Keith played briefly for the Reds in 1993.

No comments: