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The ol' perfessor, Hub Kittle, returned to baseball recently. Cacti quivered, Gila monsters ran for cover, young pitchers shook in their shoes.
"I talked Hub out of retirement," George Kissell said a few weeks ago in the locker room at a desert baseball outpost in Peoria, Ariz. Kissell, who at 68 is no spring chicken himself, smiled as he watched the 72-year-old Kittle, wrapped in a towel, race some teenagers to the showers.
"I got him on the phone this spring, after his wife died," Kissell continued. "I said, 'What are you doing?' and he answered [here Kissell's voice dropped to a dispirited mumble], 'Watchin' my poodle and my parrot.' " Kissell shook his head. "Can you imagine that?"
Kittle is a rambunctious old coot who in 53 years in organized baseball has done just about everything—from pitching no-hitters to driving the team bus (SI July 3, 1989). He never speaks at lower than boom-box level, and now, roaring in the shower room, he could easily be heard throughout the clubhouse: "Loco? You think the kid's loco? S——, a pitcher can be the craziest——that ever walked the earth, he can be the——devil. I don't care! As long as he's got a——arm!"
Kissell grinned and continued, "So Hub says, 'I'm watchin' my poodle and my parrot.' And I said, 'What are you gonna do, watch 'em till they die?' "
Out in the clubhouse Kittle could be heard barking: "He's gotta have something on his right side, and this kid's got a gun!"
Kissell went on, "So Hub said to me, 'No, George, I'm just...tired and lonely.' So I said, 'Want to work?' And he said, 'Do I!' He didn't talk any more poodles and parrots after that."
Kittle walked back into the room, still clad in the towel, and gave his old friend a sharp look.
Kissell said, "I was just telling about how you had to take care of your poodle and your parrot."
"Yorkie!" Kittle corrected. "It's a Yorkshire terrier. I hate poodles!"