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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Kindall’s spot just a matter of time

    Adam Gaubsports editor
    Adam Gaub
    sports editor

    For former Arizona Wildcat baseball head coach Jerry Kindall, it isn’t so much what he didn’t do. Instead, Kindall was victim to a selection process that was akin to putting a collection of Monets, Van Goghs, Rembrandts and Picassos in the same room and having a panel pick the best ones.

    Kindall failed to make the list of finalists to be inducted into the inaugural class of the College Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday.

    The 46 original nominees, first announced on April 12, comprised former players, coaches and legends (players from before 1946). The list of players and coaches was narrowed to 10 by an 80-member voting panel, knocking many top names off a list that should have been much larger for what will be a great tribute to the college game.

    Of the 46 originally nominated, just 12 were coaches and just five made the final cut. The legends will be voted upon in a separate vote before the induction ceremonies over the Fourth of July weekend.

    You’ll get no argument from me that Kindall was more deserving than any of the five; rather he is a victim of the hall being unnecessarily exclusive in its first round of inductions.

    Kindall went up against 11 other coaching legends of the game, including the five who got voted in: ASU’s Bobby Winkles, Louisiana State’s Skip Bertman, Miami’s Ron Fraser, Texas’ Cliff Gustafson and the late Ron Dedeaux from Southern California.

    This was no group of stiffs. Dedeaux led USC to 11 College World Series titles over his illustrious career, which included a string of five straight, a feat that has never been matched in the history of college baseball. He was also the winningest coach in the history of the game when he retired, tallying 1,332 wins over a career that spanned five decades.

    Gustafson, who won a pair of titles with Texas, took that honor away from Dedeaux by winning 1,427 games over his career, which ended when he retired in 1996.

    Bertman, Fraser and Winkles all won multiple titles at their respective programs and were primarily responsible for building the powerhouse programs that exist at those schools today.

    So where did Kindall fall short? Certainly not in national titles. Kindall’s three (1976, ’80, ’86) matched those of Winkles and outnumbered the pair each that Gustafson and Fraser won.

    Not in tenure – Kindall led the Wildcats for 24 seasons, besting the 18 years Bertman put in at LSU or the 13 Winkles gave to ASU before leaving for the supposedly greener pastures of the major leagues.

    Kindall is the winningest coach in the history of Arizona, collecting 861 wins over his illustrious career and compiling a .620 winning percentage.

    He was also inducted into the respective Hall of Fames of the University of Minnesota (Class of ’95) – where he played in college before going on to a professional career with the Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians – and the University of Arizona (Class of ’96).

    It’s hard to fault Kindall for not building a program from scratch, as former head coach Frank Sancet, who led the Wildcats from 1950 to 1972, already made the Wildcats into a consistent title contender in the old Western Athletic Conference, to which the Wildcats belonged until 1979.

    Maybe the knock on Kindall was that his later years were not as successful as when he began. However, it seems even more impressive to me that Kindall’s overall numbers are what they are considering after a pair of regional appearances in 1992 and ’93, Kindall finished with three straight sixth-place Pac-10 finishes to end his tenure at Arizona.

    But then look at former Arizona head coach Jerry Stitt, who was brought in to take over and revitalize the program that Kindall had made so great. Stitt, in five years at Arizona before giving way to current head coach Andy Lopez, had a miserable stint.

    The Wildcats finished no better than fourth in the Pac-10 and had only one regional appearance, in which they were swept in two straight losses in the Waco, Texas, regional in 1999.

    While Lopez has finally brought the Wildcats back to where Kindall kept them for so long, even his success has not brought him yet near what Kindall produced so consistently for so long.

    Kindall is a Hall of Fame coach by any measure. For him, it is just a matter of time because of an unwillingness of the new College Baseball Hall of Fame to immediately open the doors to all who are truly deserving.

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