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Penn People

Donald Stafford Kellett 1909 - 1970

Penn Connection

  • B.S. in Econ. 1934
  • Member of varsity baseball 1931-1934
  • Bowl man 1934
  • Director of freshman athletics and later head basketball coach 1941-1947

Donald Stafford “Red” Kellett was born in Brooklyn, New York, on July 15, 1909. He came to the University of Pennsylvania after being a four-letter man at Erasmus High School and a three-letter man at Peekskill Military Academy.

Kellett became one of Penn’s most legendary athletes. In his freshman year he was captain of three of his class teams: football, basketball, and baseball. By winning three varsity letters each year after his freshman year, Kellett became a nine-letter man. He played halfback in baseball, guard on the basketball team, and second baseman and shortstop on the baseball team. In his senior year, he was captain of the varsity baseball team, an All-Intercollegiate basketball player, quarterback of the football team, and recipient of the Class of 1915 Alumni Trophy as the outstanding athlete of his class. Kellett was a leader off the playing fields as well; he was a member of the Houston Hall Board of Governors, Sphinx Society, Phi Kappa Beta Society, president of Kappa Sigma fraternity, and winner of the Thayer Scholarship award. He was elected by his class as Bowl Man in his senior year.

The first bonus-baby in baseball, Red Kellett made his major league debut with the Boston Red Sox on July 2, 1934. He played nine games that season, but after the end of the season, he was farmed out to teams in Little Rock and then in Albany. In the fall 1935 he was appointed as freshman football and basketball coach at Ursinus. After a stint playing baseball with the Syracuse Chiefs in the spring of 1936, he became head football coach at Ursinus. He last played organized baseball in the spring of 1941 with a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, team.

In 1941 Kellett returned to his alma mater as Director of Freshman Athletics and coach of freshman football and basketball. He remained at Penn until 1947, taking on a variety of coaching assignments, including head coach of Penn’s basketball team when it won the Eastern Ivy League title in the 1944-1945 season. It is interesting that, during his coaching years, Kellett also took the opportunity to further his education by taking courses at Wharton from 1936-1938 and in 1944. Ironically, in 1944, the thirty-five year old Kellett was rejected for service in World War II because of a stomach ailment.

Kellett then moved on, first to television and then to the business end of professional sports. He did the first commercial telecast of football play-by-play for WFIL-TV, and later headed the operations of this radio and television station. He joined the Baltimore Colts as president and general manager in 1953, shortly before they obtained a National Football League franchise. Kellett is given credit for bringing Johnny Unitas to the team and making the team a football powerhouse.

When he retired from the Colts in 1966, Kellett moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He died there of an unexpected heart attack on November 3, 1970.