Jerry Kindall, a former major-leaguer and the greatest coach in Arizona Wildcats baseball history, has died. He was 82.
Kindall suffered a major stroke Thursday. He was taken off life support Sunday and died at Tucson Medical Center. The UA confirmed his death late on Christmas Eve.
Kindall was a Tucson sports legend and the first person ever to win a College World Series title as both a player (at Minnesota) and a head coach (at Arizona). His Wildcats won national titles in 1976, 1980 and 1986.
Kindall retired following the 1996 season, but was a regular at Wildcats games — and in all corners of Tucson — for years to come. As recently as last spring, Kindall called NCAA Tournament baseball games on television.
Kindall broadcasted the sport over multiple decades, and his talents as a storyteller and analyst were famous. As a Chicago Cubs second baseman, he coined the phrase “Friendly confines of Wrigley Field.”
Kindall’s former players and colleagues hailed him Sunday night as a moral man of deep Christian faith and conviction. Kindall went 860-579-7 in Tucson.
“Some people talk the talk; he walked the walk,” said Terry Francona, the Arizona Wildcats’ 1980 Golden Spikes winner and current manager of the Cleveland Indians. “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 people, but to respect the people in the game. That was the most valuable lesson any of us learned.”
Added Chip Hale, Washington Nationals bench coach and a member of the UA’s 1986 national championship team: “This is a man that at every point of his life was an example for me going forward. When I left Arizona, I felt like I was ready to get out in the world, whether it was baseball or something else, just from his examples.”
Kindall was a “bonus baby” draft pick of the Chicago Cubs who went on to play eighth seasons in the big leagues with the Cubs, Twins and Indians. Kindall went on to coach at the University of Minnesota until 1973, when he was hired by the UA. Kindall’s players tallied 34 first-team All-America honors. Under Kindall, three Wildcats won College World Series MVP awards. The most recognizable Wildcats of all time — Francona, Hale, Scott Erickson, Trevor Hoffman, J.T. Snow, Kevin Long and Craig Lefferts, to name a few — played, and shined, under Kindall.
Kindall was voted into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 alongside his college coach, Minnesota’s Dick Siebert, longtime rival Jim Brock of ASU and friend Chuck “Bobo” Brayton from Washington State.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes named its annual coaches’ award after Kindall. The Jerry Kindall Character in Coaching Award is presented annually to the college or high school coach who best exemplifies Christian values on and off the baseball field. Kindall received the first award in 2006. In 2015, Kindall served as grand marshal of the Tucson Rodeo Parade.
Kindall, who played on the Minnesota team that defeated Arizona for the 1956 title, spent 24 seasons with the Wildcats. He won three Pac-10 titles and a WAC pennant at Arizona. His teams advanced to the NCAA postseason 12 times during his tenure and played in five College World Series in Omaha.
Kindall is survived by his wife, Diane; children Betsy, Doug, Bruce and Martha; and stepdaughter Elise Sargent.
Kindall’s first wife, Georgia, died of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 1987, one year after Kindall won his third national title with the Wildcats.
Services are pending.
UA athletic director Dave Heeke said Kindall was “an icon in the world of baseball and, specifically, college baseball.”
“On behalf of the athletics department and Wildcats everywhere, we want to share our deepest condolences with Jerry’s family and friends,” he said.