Riggleman Reflects on Kissell

This past week, MLB Hall of Famer Lou Brock pointed to good fundamental baseball as not just the key for the St. Louis Cardinals return to the playoff mix this season, but the overall success of the franchise through the years. And more often than not, when fundamentals and Cardinals are used in conversation the name George Kissell comes up.

Today the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer would have celebrated his 98th birthday.

First as a minor league player for the Cardinals and then as a coach in the organization, Jim Riggleman got to experience the tutelage of Kissell on multiple levels.

“We probably don’t have enough time to go over all that,” smiled Riggleman during the Cincinnati Reds recent visit to Busch Stadium. “A legendary guy. He had such an impact on myself and everybody over there–Shildt, Pop Warner, Chris Maloney when he was there. Matheny, all of them. But you can sum it up this way if you think about this, Tony La Russa said this and this is a helluva statement: George Kissell may be the greatest Cardinal ever.

“He’s not talking about instructing. He means the greatest Cardinal impact of anybody who’s ever lived–Musial, Gibson, Schoendienst. He’s saying this guy could be the most important person who’s ever been a Cardinal. He did have that kind of an impact. He did everything over there for what was it, 60-something years? So to be that influential, to have that kind of impact, to hit us all individually the way he–the first game I ever managed, he was in the dugout with me helping me get through it. I’m sure he did that for Shildt and many others.”

Now the Reds interim manager, Riggleman doesn’t carry around a copy of Kissell’s famed notebook which served as the blueprint for The Cardinal Way, but shared that he does still have the pages in a binder for reference and has “worn the pages out” through the years.

“The great thing was about George, it’s in there, it’s in that binder, but it’s in pencil,” said Riggleman. “It’s like, ‘hey, I’m still learning. Might have to erase some of this stuff and I had that wrong.’ He was 80-something years old and he said, ‘You know what, we’ve been doing that wrong. We’ve got to do this the other way.’ He was still learning, so that impressed on all of us if he’s still learning, I damn sure must still be learning because I haven’t figured it out as good as he has.”

George Kissell was signed by Branch Rickey as an infielder for the Cardinals in 1940. After playing he went on to coach, manage, and work for the team in player development and other capacities until his death in 2008. Kissell was elected to the team’s Hall of Fame in 2015.

Leave a Reply