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Ole Miss Baseball Set to Retire Don Kessinger’s Jersey Number

Ole Miss legend and Major League Baseball All-Star Don Kessinger will have his jersey number retired on Thursday, April 22, as the third-ranked Rebels open a three-game series against LSU at Swayze Field.
Kessinger’s No. 11—the number he wore as he earned six All-Star and two Gold Glove selections as the shortstop for the Chicago Cubs— will be displayed on the outfield wall at Oxford-University Stadium. He will join Jake Gibbs as the only two Rebel baseball players to have their numbers retired.
“Few individuals have represented Ole Miss with more grace and prestige than Don Kessinger,” said Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Keith Carter. “He competed at the highest level of the sport of baseball and set a standard for future Rebels. As a student-athlete, he was a rare two-sport All-American, and as a coach, he provided leadership and personal guidance to countless young men. We are honored to celebrate his lifetime of success, his contributions to Ole Miss and the person that he is by placing his jersey number in its rightful place alongside Jake Gibbs in Swayze Field.”
“I’m excited this honor is being bestowed upon Don Kessinger,” said head baseball coach Mike Bianco. “As many people know, this will only be the second number in Ole Miss baseball history to be retired. Don is arguably the greatest player who has ever put on the uniform here. He’s had a sensational career, not only as a Rebel, but in his long, illustrious career in Major League Baseball as a member of the Chicago Cubs. I’ve always appreciated Don and what he has meant not only to Ole Miss, but to me personally. He’s been a great ambassador to Ole Miss baseball and pillar in our community.”
Kessinger excelled in both basketball and baseball for the Rebels from 1962-64, earning All-SEC and All-America honors in both sports. In basketball, he averaged 22.2 points per game to rank fourth in Ole Miss history as well as 11th with 1,553 career points. On the diamond, Kessinger’s feats were equally impressive. His .400 career batting average still remains No. 1 in the Ole Miss record book, an effort which is also sixth on the SEC career chart. Kessinger’s best year at the plate came in 1964 when he led the SEC by hitting .436, a performance that remains the best single-season effort in Rebel baseball history. His nine career triples and 44 career steals place him 10th on each Ole Miss all-time list.
“I am thrilled, honored, overwhelmed and humbled by this gesture,” Kessinger said. “I will be forever grateful that my number will be hung next to the great Jake Gibbs in the outfield. I am also so privileged that I have had the honor of representing Ole Miss through the years in two sports. My teammates, coaches and those Ole Miss fans who have encouraged my career will never be forgotten. I have also been blessed by the amazing young men I got to coach at Ole Miss. They taught me so much. I could not be where I find myself today without the support of all. And to my family, I am thankful for your constant love, support and encouragement through my athletic career. But most of all, I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for gifting to me the skills, the health and the ultimate successes I have had. I pray that I have honored Him above all.”
Following a successful collegiate career, Kessinger moved on to Major League Baseball where he put together an impressive 16-year career. He started with the Chicago Cubs in 1964 and played at Wrigley Field until 1975. During that time as the Cubs’ starting shortstop, Kessinger played in six All-Star Games, earned two Gold Glove Awards and set a then-Major League record for consecutive errorless games at shortstop with 54 in 1969. In his last season in MLB, 1979, Kessinger served as a player-manager for the White Sox.
Named an SEC Legend, as well as a member of the Chicago Cubs, Ole Miss Sports, Mississippi, Arkansas, Chicago and National High School Halls of Fame, Kessinger kept close to baseball following his MLB career. In 1991, he returned to his alma mater to become head coach of the Rebels, taking over for the legendary Gibbs. Kessinger won 185 games over six seasons, and in 1995, he led Ole Miss to its first-ever 40-win season, as well as its first NCAA Regional berth since 1977.
Kessinger’s sons, Keith and Kevin, both followed in his footsteps and had outstanding Rebel careers before moving on to professional baseball. The Kessinger legacy continued when Don’s grandson, Grae Kessinger, became the second All-American shortstop in the family, earning first-team honors in 2019.

Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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