Tuesday, April 26, 2011

#130 Al Kaline

#130 Al Kaline
See? I promised big names this week, and I was true to my word, though we'll call Commish Bob's tongue-in-cheek guess of Frank Bertaina close but no cigar. Al Kaline is the only Baseball Hall of Famer (that I know of) who has a pH value higher than 7.3. Correct me if I'm wrong, baseball/chemistry nerds.

Fun facts about Al Kaline:

-A native of Baltimore, MD, Al went from Southern High School to the major leagues as a $35,000 bonus baby.

-As an 18-year-old rookie in 1953, he appeared in 30 games as a late-inning replacement, collecting 7 hits in 28 at-bats (.250) with 9 runs scored, a home run, and a pair of RBI.

-Kaline was Detroit's starting right fielder in a sophomore, but took a quantum leap the following season at age 20 (1955). He batted .340 to become the youngest player to win a batting title, beating out fellow Tiger great Ty Cobb by a single day. He also paced the A.L. with 200 hits and 321 total bases. He led his team with 121 runs scored, 8 triples, 27 home runs, 82 walks, and a .421 OBP and .546 SLG. His 102 RBI ranked second on the club to Ray Boone. The young slugger made the first of 15 All-Star teams, and was narrowly edged out by Yogi Berra for MVP honors.

-That 1955 campaign started with a bang, as he went 4-for-5 with 3 homers and 6 RBI in a 16-0 romp over the A's on April 17. It was Detroit's sixth game of the year.

-He never did win an MVP, though he was a top-ten finisher nine times. Another second-place finish came in 1963, when he batted .312/.375/.514 with 27 homers and 101 RBI. The numbers show that there were no standout candidates that year, but Elston Howard benefited from putting up a .287/.342/.528 line with 28 home runs and 85 RBI while catching 132 games for the American League Champion Yankees. He won the award in a rout.

-His greatest virtue as an outfielder was his strong and accurate throwing arm, which helped him collect 10 Gold Gloves in his career.

-When the Tigers finally reached the World Series in 1968, Al was 33, but he didn't show his age. The veteran batted .379 (11-for-29) with 2 home runs and 8 RBI to help deliver the Motor City's first baseball championship since 1945. A two-run single off of Nelson Briles in the seventh inning of Game 5 gave the Tigers the lead for good.

-Even in his late thirties, Kaline remained near the league-average in production. He was able to play 147 games in his farewell season of 1974 while DHing full-time, batting .262 with 65 walks, 13 home runs, and 64 RBI. He collected his 3,000th career hit off of Baltimore's Dave McNally in a road game on September 24, a fourth-inning double. Even though he didn't accomplish the feat in front of a home crowd, he was at least able to do it in his home town.

-He spent his entire 22-year career with the Tigers, batting .297 with 498 doubles, 399 home runs, and 1,583 RBI.

-Al had his #6 retired by the Tigers in 1980, the same year in which he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a first-year honoree. He has remained a part of the Detroit organization ever since, serving as a color commentator on TV broadcasts until 2002. He's been a front office consultant and an instructor since then.
#130 Al Kaline (back)


  1. I bet you could ask a thousand baseball people and not one would have anything bad to say about Al Kaline. That, and the fact that he's a Balmer guy, make him a real favorite of mine. Too bad there were no Orioles when he was signing, we might have had another Hall of Famer to brag about.

  2. Bob - Of course if the O's had Kaline in right field, they might never have been tempted to trade for Frank Robinson. There's a reason for everything.

  3. Yeah, I thought about that. We'd have made it work if we somehow had them both. Frank played some in left. Baseball lends itself to What if' fun.

  4. Well, if the O's had had Kaline in RF, they might have won a pennant before 1966.

  5. alkaline--the only player named after a battery