In celebration of Arizona's centennial, the Star will feature our picks for the 100 best athletes, moments and teams. Throughout the summer, we will showcase our list - with the first 90 in no particular order. Later this month, Greg Hansen will choose his top 10, with a column on each.
Jerry Kindall's second Arizona baseball team finished an incredible 58-6 and broke a school record by winning 44 of 45 home games. Yet the 1974 Wildcats were stunned in the NCAA playoffs and eliminated by tiny Northern Colorado.
It was surely Kindall's most talented team in his 24 Arizona seasons, but it is virtually forgotten in the success that followed.
By the time Kindall retired in 1996, Arizona had won national championships in 1976, 1980 and 1986, had placed 32 ex-Wildcats in the major leagues and had won 860 games.
Forever modest, Kindall doesn't pretend that he invented baseball at the UA.
"I merely maintained what I inherited," he said. "Pop McKale and Frank Sancet established this wonderful program. It was up to me to carry on."
Kindall's reputation over 24 Arizona baseball seasons was such that the Fellowship of Christian Athletes created the "Jerry Kindall Character in Coaching Award," which it bestows on a coach every season. He was selected to the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and remains on the Board of the Directors for the ABCA.
The irony to his success at UA is that he was an All-America shortstop on the 1956 Minnesota team that beat Arizona in the College World Series title game.
After a 10-year major-league career with the Cubs, Indians and Twins, Kindall was hired to coach Arizona in 1972, spending a year-in-waiting as Sancet concluded his Hall of Fame career of 23 seasons.
Kindall's old-school and team-first values are exhibited in the way he remembers Arizona's three College World Series championship teams.
When the '76 team and staff were fitted for national championship rings, Kindall asked if it were possible to receive a watch instead of a ring. It was.
"I'm still wearing that 1976 watch," he says now. "It's still ticking. I look at it and think about that great group of people every day."
St. Paul, Minn; 76
Arizona's Sancet Field was rededicated in 2004 and renamed Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium. Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, star of Arizona's 1980 national championship team, returned to Tucson for the dedication. "Coach Kindall is the greatest influence I've had in my baseball career," he said. "He is first-class in every way."
On StarNet: See the archive at: azstarnet.com/sportscentennial