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Crash claims baseball mentor George Kissell

George Kissell, who died Tuesday, joined the St. Louis Cardinals organization in the 1940s.

George Kissell, who died Tuesday, joined the St. Louis Cardinals organization in the 1940s.

PINELLAS PARK — The joy of playoff baseball in October took a blow Tuesday as one of the game's enduring figures died from injuries he sustained in a car crash in Pinellas Park.

George Kissell, a longtime instructor and minor league manager with the St. Louis Cardinals, was injured in the crash about 7:45 p.m. Monday on U.S. 19.

Mr. Kissell, 88, was taken to Northside Hospital, then on Tuesday morning was transferred to Tampa General Hospital, where he died, hospital spokesman John Dunn said.

Mr. Kissell, who lived in the Mainlands in Pinellas Park, may not have been a household name to the general public, but he was well known to baseball insiders and die-hard fans.

He had worked for the Cardinals organization since the 1940s, which is believed to be the longest current affiliation a person has had with a single club.

Although he never played in the major leagues, he held almost every other on-the-field job in baseball. He has mentored players from Joe Torre, now the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, to Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols.

A 1997 profile about Mr. Kissell in the St. Petersburg Times said "the word that describes him best is teacher," earning him the nickname "the Professor."

"Anybody in baseball knows George … from owners to clubhouse kids," Brian Bartow, a Cardinals spokesman, said Tuesday before news of Kissell's death had reached St. Louis. "We're saying our prayers."

Mr. Kissell was injured when the 2002 Chevrolet in which he was a passenger collided with a 2005 Pontiac at U.S. 19 N and 110th Avenue N.

The Chevrolet, which was traveling west on 110th, was driven by Mr. Kissell's daughter, Karolyn K. Kidwell of Pinellas Park. Mr. Kissell was in the left rear passenger seat behind her.

The Pontiac, driven by Stacy L. Lehart of St. Petersburg, was going about 40-45 mph, said Pinellas Park police spokesman Sandy Forseth.

Both doors on the left side of the Chevrolet were crushed. Firefighters spent 15 minutes cutting off the doors to get Mr. Kissell out. His heart stopped at one point, but paramedics revived him.

Kidwell, 58, also was injured and was taken to Bayfront Hospital. She has since been released.

Lehart, 27, was injured but was not taken to a hospital.

Mr. Kissell's wife, Virginia, who was in the front seat of the Chevrolet, was apparently not seriously injured.

Forseth said the investigation is continuing and no charges have been filed, though he said the early information indicates Kidwell may have run a red light.

Crash claims baseball mentor George Kissell 10/07/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 13, 2008 6:15pm]
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