Detroit Tigers legend Al Kaline has passed away Monday at the age of 85. He was known as ‘Mr. Tiger’ having played all 22 of his Major League Baseball seasons in Detroit.
Needless to say, the year 2020 strikes again, this time taking the greatest player in Detroit Tigers history Al Kaline at the age of 85 – the Detroit News confirms. I am not old enough to remember Al Kaline’s playing days, but I remember him as a commentator during Tigers television broadcasts.
Kaline remained in the Detroit area when his on-field career ended after the 1974 season. Al immediately entered the broadcast booth in 1975 alongside broadcasting legend George Kell. He was an encyclopedia of baseball knowledge. I also thoroughly enjoyed listening to Kaline alongside the play-by-play call of Frank Beckmann in the mid-90s through the early 00s.
After Kaline retired from the booth in 2002, he became a consultant to General Manager (GM) Dave Dombrowski. He was a staple at Detroit Tigers’ spring training for years, usually instructing the collection of outfielders throughout the organization.
Al Kaline burst onto the scene in 1955, his second full professional season winning the American League batting title at just 20-years old. The only other MLB player to do so at 20-years old is also a Tiger legend, Ty Cobb. That season in 1955 as a 20-year old Kaline hit a whopping .340, produced 200 hits, hit 27 home runs and drove in 102 runs. Incredible.
Many former and current Detroit athletes have also paid their respect to Mr. Tiger, here are a few.
Kaline was one of six outfielders in MLB history to win 10 gold glove awards. He won those 10 over a span of 11 seasons. Kaline was extremely durable, having played at least 100 games in 19 straight seasons. He was an 18-time All-Star. Think about that for a second, 18 times an All-Star in 22 seasons. Kaline couldn’t just track down a fly ball hit into the gap; it’s been said he could throw a strike from the right-field wall to cut down a base runner at home plate.
Al bi-passed minor league baseball signing a $35,000 contract to join the Detroit Tigers, making his debut in 1953. Kaline finished his career with 3007 hits, stashed a tremendous .297/.376/.480 line to go with 399 home runs, and 1582 RBI’s.
Kaline won the 1968 World Series with the Detroit Tigers. Arguably the most prestigious championship in the city’s sports history after everything the city went through in 1967, sort of bonding everyone after the riots.
Kaline remains the franchise leader with 2834 games played, 1277 walks, and 104 sacrifice flies. Rest easy, Mr. Tiger. We will miss you now and always.