It’s hard to believe that it has been almost two months that we have lost our beloved Mr. Tiger—Al Kaline. No one knows the emotional roller coaster that the Tigers put us through season after season more than Kaline himself.
The Tigers were 40 games out of first place when a young 18-year-old boy from Baltimore, Maryland got signed straight from Baltimore Southern High; just a week after his high school graduation, “…wasn’t my favorite team at that time, but I love them now.”
Kaline would go straight from playing in the sandlot to the show, making his major league debut on June 25, 1953 in Philadelphia, not playing a single minor league game in his career. From there his legacy began to grow, playing his entire career for the Detroit Tigers—22 seasons to be exact, with his last game on October 2, 1974.
When asked by reporter Ray Lane how Kaline made the transition from high school baseball to the major league level, Kaline responded, “I think I have an awful lot of pride…if I could use one word, it would be pride.” And pride he had and showed like no other.
He wore many hats within this organization. From owning the right field—as most would know it as ‘Kaline’s Corner’, to becoming the voice of the Tigers, to holding an executive front office position up until this current season. No one represented the “spirit of the Tigers” more than Al Kaline. From the moment he stepped foot on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull Ave., to the minute he took his last breath on April 6, 2020 at his home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, he was a Tiger for life.
1980 would be the year to honor Kaline. Not only did he get inducted into the Hall of Fame on his first year of eligibility, no other Tiger would wear the number six again. On August 17, 1980, the Detroit Tigers retired number six, making it forever Mr. Tiger’s.
“Too often a player goes through his entire career taking his uniform for granted, I never did, every time I put on a Tiger uniform, I did it with pride.”
It’s no doubt that all of that was much deserved and more. Just to name a few of his accomplishments, Kaline finished his playing career with:
- Batting average of .297
- 3,007 Hits
- 399 Home Runs
- 1,583 Runs Batted In
- 18x All Star
- 1968 World Series Champion
- 10x Gold Glove Award
- Roberto Clemente Award
- AL Batting Champion (he was only 20)
- 1980 HOF induction
- 1980 Number Retirement
Kaline played with so much heart and hustle, that too often he would run into the stands diving for balls, causing the stadium to remove 10-12 box seats to prevent any future injuries; That’s how Kaline’s Corner came to play.
“I am proud to be commissioner of baseball because of Al Kaline,” Bowie Kuhn (MLB Commissioner 1969-1984), making August 2, 1970 officially Al Kaline Day.
For half a century, Kaline has meant so much to the Tiger community, that it will be odd to not finish the 2020 season with him there.
Not only does Kaline leave behind his high school sweetheart, Madge Louise (Hamilton), two sons, and four grandchildren—but the ENTIRE Tiger’s community.
“I can never tell you, that I thank God that I chose Detroit,”—Kaline.
And speaking on behalf of our Tiger faithfuls, neither can we! Thank you, Mr. Tiger, and may you rest easy and forever our angel in the outfield—Kaline’s Corner to be exact.