By Corky Simpson
If you knew Jerry Kindall you were his best friend.
That’s how he made you feel.
The winningest baseball coach in University of Arizona history went up to the big leagues on Christmas Eve after suffering a massive stroke. He was 82.
He told a friend once, “I want on my epitaph three words: ‘He Served God.’” And he did. That’s where the universal best-friendships came in.
You doubt it?
For two decades “JK” was one half of the fiercest, absolutely most intense rivalry in all of college sports — Arizona vs. Arizona State on the baseball field — and the other half was Jim Brock of ASU. They fought bitter battles in front of very vocal and bitter fans from 1973 when Kindall became head coach of the Wildcats until 1994 when Brock died.
They followed each other as national champions, Arizona winning the College World Series in 1976 and Brock in 1977. Then they did it again when Kindall won in 1980 and Brock in 1981.
Some fans assumed the coaches hated each other.
But guess who the Brock family asked to deliver the eulogy at Jim Brock’s funeral in Tempe in June 1994.
“We faced each other something like 150 times, and it was often painful for me,” Kindall said at the funeral. “But the times I cherished most were the times Jim and I talked and confessed our faith was wavering. We’d share our fears and ask each other for support.”
Kindall won another College World Series in 1986. He retired in 1996 after 860 wins for the Wildcats. He was national Coach of the Year three times, won three Pacific-10 Conference championships and one Western Athletic Conference title.
He’s the only man to play for and coach a College World Series champion. He led the University of Minnesota to the national championship in 1956, a month or so before he signed a $50,000 bonus to play for the Chicago Cubs.
JK was inducted into the Minnesota Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.
He is survived by his wife, Diane and stepdaughter Elise Sargent, and also by the four children from his first marriage to the late Georgia Kindall; Betsy, Doug, Bruce and Martha.