Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. RIP: Al Kaline

 

Al KalineBaseball great Al Kaline passed away today April 6, 2020 at his Bloomfield Hills home at age 85. No cause of death has been given although it is known that he suffered a heart attack several months ago. Kaline, who was born and raised in Baltimore, MD, was an early “bonus baby” signing with the Detroit Tigers at age 18 for enough money ($35,000) that the rules of the time required that he stay with the major league club. He would stay with the Tigers from that first day forward in 1953 for the next twenty-two years until his retirement following the 1974 season thus being one of the few major league players never to spend even a day in the minors.

Kaline came into his own as a player in 1955 as the 20-year old led the league in hits (200), total bases (321) and in the process became the youngest batting champion (.340) in history. The following season he would drive in a personal best 128 runs and he would continue to play at an all-star level for the better part of the next two decades. Kaline took as much pride in his defense as he did with his hitting and the right fielder would garner 10 gold gloves to go along with 15 All-Star Game selections. He would not win an MVP but he would finish second in the voting twice and be considered one of the ten most valuable players in the league nine times. For his career, he would join the 3,000 hit club with 3,007 hits but would just miss several other round numbers with 399 home runs, 498 doubles, and a career .297 batting average. The newer advanced metrics also attest Kaline’s greatness – his 92.8 WAR ranks 29th all-time among position players, while his 443 Win Shares is 28th all-time among position players. The highlight of his playing career probably came in 1968 as his Tigers beat the St Louis Cardinals for the World Series Championship as he did his part hitting .379 with 8 RBI. Kaline played his entire career with a deformed left foot due to a childhood bout with osteomyelitis which caused him problems off and on during his playing career. Here is a link to his statistics.

Kaline’s playing career was capped with his selection to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1980. After his playing career, “Mr. Tiger” joined the Tigers as an executive and he would remain employed by them until his death. Kaline, who had been a clubhouse leader during his playing career was universally liked and respected throughout the baseball world. He is survived by Madge, his wife of 66 years, and their two grown children.

Below, is a short video celebration of his career put together by the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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  1. Chris O. Coolidge
    Chris O. Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Reds fan, but spent a few summers in Tiger country as a kid. I sort of followed Sparky to the Tigers and Sweet Lou, Lance Parrish, et. al.. That team won a World Series, too, but I remember so much talk of Al Kaline, and you can’t help but explore when the name so closely follows the franchise. With great respect, RIP.

    • #1
    • April 6, 2020, at 4:49 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  2. Seawriter Contributor

    Another part of my childhood gone.

    • #2
    • April 6, 2020, at 4:58 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  3. Old Bathos Moderator

    I miss the baseball of my youth in which each team was characterized by it’s permanent stars like Kaline. Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Brooks Robinson, Bill Mazeroski, Nellie Fox, Whitey Ford… In the modern era of rootless big money, fixed-star guys like Cal Ripken, Derek Jeter and Kirby Puckett are the exception and not the rule. 

    Al Kaline routinely hammered the Senators, especially at home. I got to see him play in person in DC in ‘62 or ‘63–I think he was out with an injury on one of the occasions he came to DC and my father took us to the game. Can’t recall.

    Very solid, admirable guy.

    • #3
    • April 6, 2020, at 7:34 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Image On September 25, 1958 Al Kaline was knocked out after being hit in the head by White Sox pitcher Bob Shaw. Kaline already had two hits, including a double, off Sox starter Dick Donovan before reliever Shaw plonked him in the 6th.

    If this happened today the player would be put through a concussion protocol and not return to the field for several days as a precautionary measure even if the results were negative. Instead, Kaline missed just one game and then played the final two of the season against the Indians going 3 for 8 with a triple, home run, and driving in five runs.

    • #4
    • April 6, 2020, at 7:47 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  5. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily

    Here’s another injury to Kaline. In 1962 Kaline got off to a great start hitting .336 and slugging .671 with 13 HR in the teams first 36 games (a 58 HR pace). In that 36th game Kaline made a diving catch of a sinking line drive off the bat of Elston Howard with one on and two out in the 9th inning to save a 2-1 win over the Yanks at Yankee Stadium on May 26. However, he broke his collarbone on the play and missed a couple of months. He ended the season with 29 HR in 100 games (a 47 HR pace). Here’s a discussion of that play and here’s the box score.

     

    • #5
    • April 6, 2020, at 8:10 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily

    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… (View Comment):

    Image On September 25, 1958 Al Kaline was knocked out after being hit in the head by White Sox pitcher Bob Shaw. Kaline already had two hits, including a double, off Sox starter Dick Donovan before reliever Shaw plonked him in the 6th.

    If this happened today the player would be put through a concussion protocol and not return to the field for several days as a precautionary measure even if the results were negative. Instead, Kaline missed just one game and then played the final two of the season against the Indians going 3 for 8 with a triple, home run, and driving in five runs.

    Thanks Mark. Didn’t know about this event.

    • #6
    • April 6, 2020, at 8:11 PM PDT
    • Like
  7. 9thDistrictNeighbor Member

    Oh that 1968 team! Detroit was aflame and sorely needed all those boys to do exactly what they did—win.

    Here is a fun video showcasing Kaline and the great Tiger Stadium. No matter where you sat, infield, outfield, upper deck, you felt like you were a part of the action. They don’t make ’em like that any more…players or stadiums.

    • #7
    • April 6, 2020, at 9:08 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  8. The Reticulator Member

    9thDistrictNeighbor (View Comment):
     No matter where you sat, infield, outfield, upper deck, you felt like you were a part of the action. They don’t make ’em like that any more…players or stadiums.

    I only saw two, maybe three games in the old Tiger Stadium. The last time we got tickets way down the left field line, on the 2nd level. I didn’t expect much, but those seats were actually pretty good. The seats were angled such that it seemed like we were watching over the shoulder of the shortstop.

    • #8
    • April 6, 2020, at 9:50 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. Ole Summers Member

    What a fine player and man! Became a young fan in ’61 season while the Tigers were coming in second to the home run Yankees of the Maris/Mantle race to break 60. Cash won the batting title (with a corked bat lol) hit 41 hrs , Rocky hit 45 , Frank Lary won 23, Jim Bunning won 19 and led the league in strikeouts …. and Kaline hit 324 … lol was the first year I started following stats of any kind …. as a result followed him the rest of his career ….. AND he was a picture book fielder with an arm!

    • #9
    • April 7, 2020, at 8:07 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    tigerlily: thus being one of the few major league players never to spend even a day in the minors

    What a great trivia tidbit. I’d love to see the complete list of such players.

    tigerlily: Kaline took as much pride in his defense as he did with his hitting and the right fielder would garner 10 gold gloves to go along with 15 All-Star Game selections

    I really dig this about Kaline. Defense is under-appreciated in most sports.

    I stopped following baseball after the 1994-95 strike (not out of bitterness, just fell out of the habit), but I retain a deep affection for the game, its history, and its place in American culture. Thanks for the post, @tigerlily, I always like reading what you have to say about baseball.

    • #10
    • April 7, 2020, at 8:32 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    tigerlily: Kaline took as much pride in his defense as he did with his hitting and the right fielder would garner 10 gold gloves to go along with 15 All-Star Game selections

    I really dig this about Kaline. Defense is under-appreciated in most sports.

    He had a gun for an arm.

    • #11
    • April 7, 2020, at 8:42 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. E. Kent Golding Member

    The seats at Tiger Stadium were affordable. I am not a big baseball fan, nor was I raised in the area, but the seats at Tiger stadium were cheap enough that you could afford to go to a game on a whim. Very pleasant.

    • #12
    • April 7, 2020, at 8:53 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. ddavewes Member

    He was one of the greats. Filled right field for the Tigers at an All-Star level for 2 decades.

    The 1968 Tigers will always live in my heart.

    One memory sticks with me.

    A Detroit paper was asking for readers to come up with a nickname for the seemingly nickname-less Kaline.

    The entry I liked best – Salty (alkaline)

     

    • #13
    • April 7, 2020, at 9:24 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  14. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily

    Charlotte (View Comment):

    tigerlily: thus being one of the few major league players never to spend even a day in the minors

    What a great trivia tidbit. I’d love to see the complete list of such players.

    tigerlily: Kaline took as much pride in his defense as he did with his hitting and the right fielder would garner 10 gold gloves to go along with 15 All-Star Game selections

    I really dig this about Kaline. Defense is under-appreciated in most sports.

    I stopped following baseball after the 1994-95 strike (not out of bitterness, just fell out of the habit), but I retain a deep affection for the game, its history, and its place in American culture. Thanks for the post, @tigerlily, I always like reading what you have to say about baseball.

    Thanks Charlotte. Appreciate the very nice compliment.

    • #14
    • April 7, 2020, at 10:12 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. E. Kent Golding Member

    ddavewes (View Comment):

    He was one of the greats. Filled right field for the Tigers at an All-Star level for 2 decades.

    The 1968 Tigers will always live in my heart.

    One memory sticks with me.

    A Detroit paper was asking for readers to come up with a nickname for the seemingly nickname-less Kaline.

    The entry I liked best – Salty (alkaline)

     

    Salty is a cool nickname, but alkaline would be Bitter, which would not be an appropriate nickname for Al Kaline,

    • #15
    • April 7, 2020, at 12:36 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    I miss the baseball of my youth in which each team was characterized by it’s permanent stars like Kaline. Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Brooks Robinson, Bill Mazeroski, Nellie Fox, Whitey Ford… In the modern era of rootless big money, fixed-star guys like Cal Ripken, Derek Jeter and Kirby Puckett are the exception and not the rule.

    Al Kaline routinely hammered the Senators, especially at home. I got to see him play in person in DC in ‘62 or ‘63–I think he was out with an injury on one of the occasions he came to DC and my father took us to the game. Can’t recall.

    Very solid, admirable guy.

    I also miss those great old days of baseball. If I ever got made Queen of All That is, no stadium would be named after some Global Conglomerate that has screwed the consumers over some 9 times to Friday.

    No reason at all while stadiums cannot each be named after the local team’s top hero, rather than Mega Corporation-of-Applied-Torture-&-No-Customer- Service Stadium. (Plus it is usually the taxpayers who foot the bill for the stadiums, so why the corporate glorification?)

    • #16
    • April 7, 2020, at 6:21 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  17. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    How did the 1968 tigers beat bob gibson and the cardinals???

     

    • #17
    • April 7, 2020, at 7:02 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    How did the 1968 tigers beat bob gibson and the cardinals???

     

    The Tigers got to Gibson in the seventh inning of game seven. He gave up two hits with two outs, then Curt Flood misjudged a line drive to center field. He headed in initially, then had to reverse himself and run out but the ball got past him and two runs scored.

    • #18
    • April 7, 2020, at 7:14 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    How did the 1968 tigers beat bob gibson and the cardinals???

     

    The Tigers got to Gibson in the seventh inning of game seven. He gave up two hits with two outs, then Curt Flood misjudged a line drive to center field. He headed in initially, then had to reverse himself and run out but the ball got past him and two runs scored.

    did Denny McLain bet on game 7?

     

    • #19
    • April 7, 2020, at 7:49 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    How did the 1968 tigers beat bob gibson and the cardinals???

     

    The Tigers got to Gibson in the seventh inning of game seven. He gave up two hits with two outs, then Curt Flood misjudged a line drive to center field. He headed in initially, then had to reverse himself and run out but the ball got past him and two runs scored.

    did Denny McLain bet on game 7?

     

    Probably. He was there.

     

    • #20
    • April 8, 2020, at 2:08 AM PDT
    • 2 likes