A fond farewell to Al Kaline, our childhood baseball hero

Fat Guy Corner

 

 

My childhood hero on the ball diamond, like many of you, I’m sure, was a man named Al Kaline.

We were all sad to hear the news earlier this week that Kaline, the Detroit Tigers legend who wore No. 6 and was known as Mr. Tiger, passed away at the age of 85.

When you think of the Detroit Tigers organization, Al Kaline should be the first name that rolls off your tongue. I can honestly say, as a young kid who loved baseball, I was always Al Kaline on the playground. I don’t think there was ever a game in the backyard or playground where I wasn’t Al Kaline. I am sure people in my age group, or some a little older than me, did the same thing. I will say during my Little League days all the kids wanted to wear number six because of Al Kaline. However, I batted left-handed, so I wore the number eight because that was the number Boston Red Sox great Carl Yastrzemski wore. Yes, I loved “Yaz” — sorry Al you batted right-handed! I wore the number eight for numerous years on all of the teams I played for. The number eight actually is still my favorite number — ask the roulette tables!

Let’s now look at Al Kaline, the Detroit Tiger legend in the Olde English D. Al Kaline’s Tiger career in right field lasted a stellar 22 years. Al was fortunate to skip minor league baseball and went straight to the Tigers organization as an 18-year-old. How about the fact he graduated high school and one week later he made his major-league debut! Let that sink in for one moment. I love the fact he played his entire career in the OIde English D uniform. Al Kaline was a complete ball player offensively and defensively on the baseball field. On the offensive side he collected 3,007 base hits and smashed 399 home runs. How nice would one more dinger have been to make it a nice round 400? I actually saw a game the last year of his career in late September when was trying for number 400.

Al Kaline won the American League batting title as a 20-year old in 1955, the youngest player to ever win the batting crown. One the defensive side,

Kaline won 10 Gold Glove awards during his career with the Tigers as he gunned down many base runners with that right arm cannon.

Baseball’s Hall of Fame came calling in 1980 when Al collected 88% of votes in his first year of eligibility. He needed only 75% to get in. I say pretty impressive as not many players at that time went in as first timers on the ballot.

The playing career of Al Kaline did not mean the end for Al in the Tigers organization. Al became the color man on Tigers television broadcasts working with the legend George Kell for two decades. Yes, Al was rough to listen to in the booth at first but improved quickly.

The highlight of Al’s career was the 1968 World Series when Tiger manager Mayo Smith moved Mickey Stanley from center field to shortstop so Al could play. Al Kaline that year missed numerous games with a broken arm and only played in 58 games. Al did not disappoint in the World Series and hit .379 with eleven hits and eight RBIs. The class of Al Kaline after the World Series was on display when he said he didn’t deserve to play in the World Series because he had missed much of the regular season. Al Kaline spent 67 years in the Tigers organization and was the humblest of human beings. I want to end with: “Mr. Kaline, thank you for making my childhood memorable on the playground. You are Mr. Tiger and you will be missed by Detroit Tigers fans but always remembered!” NUMBER 6 RIP

PGA Tour Disruption

The PGA golf world has some news as The Open at Royal St. George was canceled for 2020 and will return in 2021. The PGA Championship has been moved to August 6-9. The U.S. Open will be played in late September 17-20. The Masters will be held in November with the dates being the 12th through the 15th. It’s going to be strange in the sports world sports, fans! How’s that for the understatement of 2020!?

I can be reached at thefatguy@mihomepaper.com.