Farewell, Mr. Tiger
In the era of big contracts, big trades and free agency, it is rare to associate a player with a franchise. In recent times, there’s been Cal Ripken (Orioles), Tony Gwynn (Mr. Padre) and Derek Jeter (Yankees). Decades ago, there were more like them. Ted Williams spent 19 seasons with the Red Sox (3 interrupted by WW2) and is synonymous with the franchise. There was Stan Musial’s 22 year run (and lifetime association) with the St. Louis Cardinals. There was “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks. And, there was “Mr. Tiger” Al Kaline.
Albert William Kaline was born December 19, 1934 in Baltimore, Maryland. A high school three sport athlete (baseball, football and basketball), was drafted by the Tigers in 1953 and debuted on June 25, 1953. He never played a game in the Minors. In 1955, at age 20, he won the American League Batting Title, hitting .340, with 200 hits, 27 Home Runs and 102 RBIs. He’d go on to play 22 seasons in Detroit, seen as the face of the franchise and led the Tigers to the 1968 World Series Championship. Kaline was a a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1980. His most notable career accomplishments include:
- 399 Home Runs
- 1,582 RBIs
- 3,007 Hits
- .297 Batting Average
- 18 All-Star Games
- 10 Gold Gloves (in Right Field)
Perhaps his most impressive statistics is his WAR (Wins Above Replacement) where he scores a 92.8 (29th of all-time). This places him ahead of Joe DiMaggio, Rod Carew, Ken Griffey Jr., Pete Rose and many of baseball’s best.
After his playing days, Kaline would spend the remainder of his life working for the Tigers franchise. He would serve as a television broadcaster from 1975-2002. He’s had various front office roles ever since. There has been a 67 year partnership between Kaline and the Detroit Tigers. Al Kaline died today. April 6, 2020 in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Perhaps it is fitting he would pass in the Spring without baseball. It is hard to imagine the Tigers franchise without him.
**Picture from www.vintagedetroit.com