Embed from Getty Images Known as “Mr. Tiger,” Al Kaline was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1980 after making 18 All-Star games and helping the Detroit Tigers win the 1968 World Series. Kaline spent all 22 playing seasons with the Detroit Tigers. He is and was a Detroit sports icon.
Al Kaline played in more games as a Tiger and hit more homers than anyone else in the history of the organization Kaline compiled a batting resume second only to another Tigers legend Ty Cobb.
Unlike Ty Cobb who was gruff and downright mean, Al Kaline was the opposite. He was respected for his on field elegance and off field kindness by teammates as well as other players around MLB.
Al Kaline signed with the Detroit Tigers the day after he graduated from high school, Kaline would make his major league debut one week later. Al Kaline would never play in the minor leagues. He would never wear another uniform but the Detroit Tigers. Kaline was 18 years old when he played his first game for the Tigers on June 25, 1953.
Kaline played his final game in 1974, he would retire with 3,007 hits, and 399 home runs. When he received the call from the Hall of Fame the ever humble Kaline said he was in “shock.”
As good a hitter as he was Al Kaline was an equally as good defensive outfielder. As a rookie Kaline threw out three Chicago White Sox in consecutive innings.
At Comerica Park, Kaline is one of six former Detroit Tigers with a statue behind the left center field fence. Even with 3,007 career hits and those organization record 399 homers, the statue shows Kaline not with a bat in hand, but making a leaping, one-handed.
For all he accomplished on the field. Al Kaline was the same off the field. Always happy to take a picture with fans. He would stand and talk with anyone for long lengths of time.
The news of his passing was met with shock and a tremendous amount of sadness not only in Detroit and the entire state of Michigan but around all of MLB.
So goodbye # 6, no matter how hard it is, and it is hard.