Remembering George Kell’s Tiger Pre-Game Show

Growing up in the 1960s, one of my favorite Saturday afternoon delights was tuning into the WJBK telecast from Tiger Stadium for George Kell’s pre-game show called “Tiger Warm Up.” (Black and white television, mind you.)

Standing behind the batting cage, Kell would greet the fans with, “Good afternoon everybody, this is George Kell for another Tiger Warm Up, and my guest today is Tiger first baseman Norman Cash.” Or perhaps, ”Minnesota’s fine manager Sam Mele.”

In the background you could hear that glorious sound of the balls being launched out of the batting cage and sometimes see your favorite player walk into the cage to take their cuts. In the meantime, Kell, in his warm and familiar Arkansas accent would ask each guest aspects of the game and perhaps what their outlook was for the coming season.

Somehow these simple interviews put me right into the game and set me up for the upcoming telecast. My only regret was that I was not going to be sitting in one of those green seats and seeing the game in all that Technicolor.

Compared to today’s often overhyped baseball coverage, like the 24-hour MLB network shows and all the fancy pre-game stuff, Kell’s simple “Tiger Warm Up” seems rather outdated. But for me, back when there were only four television stations to tune into and there were very few baseball games to watch except for the odd Tiger telecast or NBC’s game of the week, Kell’s pre-game show was just perfect.

Oh and by the way. If “Tiger Warm Up” was being taped down at Comerica Park today, you wouldn’t even hear the wonderful background sound of the balls being knocked out of the batting cage. Why? Because of all the extremely loud and obnoxious high decibel crap being blown out of the loudspeakers during batting practice.

Memo to the Tigers’ new president Tom Wilson: Turn it down. Or better yet, off.

Detroit Tigers announcer George Kell on the field at Tiger Stadium during his pre-game show "Tiger Warm Up."

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About Bill Dow

Bill Dow has written numerous articles on Detroit sports history as a regular freelance contributor to the Detroit Free Press sports page, and some of his work has been published in Baseball Digest magazine. He also wrote the Afterword to the latest editions of George Plimpton’s book Paper Lion.