Hall of Famer Was a Tiger at 18, and for Life

Al Kaline had 3,000 hits and won 10 Gold Gloves in right field
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 6, 2020 8:30 PM CDT
Hall of Famer Was a Tiger at 18, and for Life
Al Kaline in 1953.   (AP Photo/FIle)

Fresh off the train and only 18 years old, Al Kaline ran into an immediate roadblock trying to join the Detroit Tigers. Called up to the majors, he couldn't get past the security guards at Briggs Stadium. "I finally convinced them I was the guy who just signed a bonus contract for the enormous sum of $15,000. That was a lot back then," Kaline recalled in a 1999 documentary. His anonymity was short-lived. Kaline, the Hall of Fame outfielder who played his entire 22-season career for Detroit, died Monday at his home in Michigan. "Mr. Tiger"—as he was known—was 85. No cause of death was given, the AP reports. "There’s a reason why he was Mr. Tiger,” said Dave Dombrowski, a former team president. "First-class person, he was humble, he always played hard. He’s the type of guy that everybody could latch onto."

Kaline, who wore No. 6, was the youngest player to win the American League batting title, in 1955 at age 20 with a .340 average. He had 3,007 hits, 399 home runs, 1,622 runs and 1,582 RBIs. Kaline was an All-Star in 15 seasons and won 10 Gold Gloves. He later was a Tigers broadcaster and a special assistant to the general manager. He came straight out of Baltimore’s Southern High School to the majors, making his debut on June 25, 1953. He took over as Detroit’s everyday right fielder in 1954, and quickly became a fan favorite at Briggs Stadium, later renamed Tiger Stadium. Kaline never hit 30 home runs in a season and topped 100 RBIs only three times, but his consistency at the plate and exceptional defense put him among the top outfielders. "The fella who could do everything is Al Kaline," Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson once said. "He was just the epitome of what a great outfielder is all about—great speed, catches the ball and throws the ball well." He hit .379 in his only World Series, winning the title in 1968.

(More obituary stories.)

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