George Kell, the Hall of Fame third baseman who edged Ted Williams for the 1949 American League batting title before putting the finishing touches on his 15-year career with the Orioles, died Tuesday. He was 86.
Jackson's Funeral Home in Newport, Ark., confirmed the death but did not give a cause. The Hall of Fame said he died in his sleep at his home in Swifton. Kell, who was a Detroit Tigers broadcaster for nearly 40 years, was severely injured in a car crash in 2004 but was able to walk with a cane about six months later.
Kell outlasted Williams for the 1949 batting crown, hitting .34291 while the Boston Red Sox great finished at .34276. Kell hit more than .300 nine times and compiled a career average of .306. He was a 10-time All-Star.
"There's no one who loved and respected the game more than George," Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said.
Kell played parts of two seasons, 1956 and 1957, for the Orioles, with 1957 his last year in the major leagues. In both seasons, he represented the Orioles as the AL starter at third base in the All-Star Game.
He stepped aside after the 1957 season and turned third base over to another Arkansas native, Brooks Robinson, who became the Orioles' primary starter at the hot corner for the next two decades.
Kell came to the Orioles in May 1956 as part a trade with the Chicago White Sox in which the Orioles also received pitchers Connie Johnson and Mike Fornieles and outfielder Bob Nieman for pitcher Jim Wilson and outfielder Dave Philley.
As an Oriole, Kell batted .278 with 17 homers and 81 RBIs in 201 games.
After he retired, Kell broadcast Tigers games from 1959 to 1996 - every year except 1964.
Kell was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983 by the veterans committee. He was joined in that year's class by Robinson.
"He was a class act through and through," Robinson said. "The crowning moment was when I was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983. I went in with my hero, George Kell."
Baltimore Sun reporter Dan Connolly contributed to this article.