Mr. Tiger had his 82nd birthday today, December 19, 2016.
Al Kaline is the type of baseball player that every kid strives to be, whether he knows it or not. He is one of the best players to wear the Old English D and he continues to be a powerful force in the game today.
He played his first game with the Tigers on June 25, 1953 and he played his last game on October 2, 1974. He played every single game with the Tigers. The young Kaline was signed by the Tigers in 1953 as a “Bonus Baby” and he did not play a single game in the minor leagues. As a “Bonus Baby,” he earned a substantial signing bonus of $35,000 in 1953 when he was 18 years old. According to the inflation calculators, that bonus would be worth more than $300,000 today. Over his time with the Tigers, he had 3007 hits – the money spent on Mr. Tiger was well worth it.
Kaline’s stats speak for themselves. The right-fielder was named to the All-Star Team every year between 1955 and 1967. He also made the squad in 1971 and 1974. Kaline earned ten Gold Glove awards for his work in the outfield. Unfortunately, he never once earned an MVP award, but he did make his way to the Hall of Fame on his very first ballot in 1980 where he received 340 out of the 385 votes.
His number is retired at Comerica Park and he has a statue as well as his own section “Kaline’s Corner.”
As a third-generation Detroit Tigers fan, some of my favorite moments were listening to Al Kaline and George Kell. Especially in 1984. And, today, I love those brief moments when Kaline appears on the radio with his former teammate Jim Price. Their reflections on the ‘good ol’ days’ back in 1968 make for pure radio gold.
Kaline continues to dedicate his life to baseball. According to a 2015 article in Parade, Kaline reports that he keeps busy by watching baseball. “I don’t have any hobbies. My wife asks me to retire, and I say, ‘Do what?’ If I wasn’t working, I would be watching games. I see the beauty in a baseball game. I can watch it and become a manager sitting in the stands.”
It isn’t common to see Kaline on TV anymore. He spends the majority of his time in the comfort of the suites or from the Champions Club in Comerica Park. It is clear that the iconic Tiger is still a huge part of the game and on the few occasions that he ventures out onto the field, he still gets well-deserved standing ovations.