Clarence Kester, known to all as Kes, has always been involved with family, kids and baseball. These led him to be referred to as Mr. Baseball. He worked for Southwestern Bell for forty years and spent 18 years managing, coaching and involved in baseball. He served several terms on the Carthage City Council, but his heart beat for baseball, not politics.
He got into baseball in 1959 to help kids. He coached the Central National Bank Little League team, which at one point, won 32 games in a row. He was both manager and coach of the Carthage LL All-Stars, which won the Missouri State Championship 6 or 7 times in the early 1970s. One year Kes was heartbroken when, in the Regional Tournament, the All-Stars came within one strike of advancing to Williamsport, PA for the Little League World Series. This was when it was a single elimination tournament. For his skill as manager and coach, he was honored with a certificate of appreciation from the city and named Lion’s Club Citizen of the Year in 1976. He brought St.Louis Cardinals former star and radio voice of the Cardinals, Mike Shannon, to Carthage to speak to the youth baseball and softball association. He was highly thought of in baseball circles. An Oklahoma coach wrote a letter to The Carthage Press describing playing against Kes’ team and praised him for his sportsmanship, drive and ability. He was also elected head of the Carthage youth baseball program and oversaw the Babe Ruth league, Little League, the Farm League and Girls Softball League.
Kes married Betty Brothers on June 6, 1952 and they have 3 children, Bill, Laura Kester South and Curt. Betty is a lifelong Lutheran and Kes attends as often as he can. He enlisted in the Army right out of school and did his service for his country.
In 2001 his kids wrote a tribute to Kes titled Growing Up as Kes’ Kids. They all had chores and the rules were: 1. To have fun; 2. Be a good sport; 3. Do your best and 4. Give 100%. That’s all anyone can ask. Kes also used these rules to apply to the All-Stars. His team rules also included having enthusiasm for the game. He let the team know he had confidence in each player; if they needed extra help – it was given to them, and if you don’t make the throw you don’t do you or the team any good. It continued with the admonition to not get “down”‘ but stay “up”. Wait for the other team’s weakness – there will be one; set your goals for the All-Stars; and he reminded them they all played together and worked together. You can’t let one person bring the whole team down, if someone makes a bad play, go to him and help him out.
Kes challenged his children and his players; he would do anything to help them improve, and if they needed help, he gave it and rewarded them for a job well done. A frequent team reward was a trip to Dairy Queen for ice cream.
Kes is the first coach/manager elected to the Hall of Carthage Heroes.
He has been a Hero / role model my entire life. I am sorry we never connected later in life. I was part of his 32 game winning stretch. I am forever sad that I could have been a part of the team that continued the streak and a state championship before moving to New Jersey. I am very proud to have learned and played for him. He is ONE of a KIND. God bless him and his daughter Laura, who got me on his team in grade school. C.L.(Lee) Atkinson, Central National Bank ballplayer and Dairy Queen indulger, 1969 & 70.