Al Kaline, popularly known as "Mr. Tiger," played all 22 seasons of his great baseball career with the Detroit Tigers. He is the last Tiger player to be elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame, receiving 348 of 380 votes, being elected on the first ballot, and the only hall of fame player to play for the Tigers since 1968.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1934 -- some 20 years before the St. Louis Browns moved to his native town to become the Orioles -- Kaline was signed by the Tigers as a "bonus baby" at 18 years of age for the sum of $35,000.
Kaline skipped the minor leagues and went straight to the majors. In 1955, he became the youngest player to win the American League batting title, with a .340 average, and the first 20 year old player to do so since Ty Cobb in 1907. "Number Six," as he was known to his teammates, recorded 200 hits, 27 home runs, and 102 RBI in the 1955 season for Detroit.
Kaline followed up the next season by hitting .314 with another 27 homers and 128 RBI. He led the league with 18 outfield assists, and threw out 23 runners in 1958 before they learned not to run when the ball was hit to right field. He finished second to the Yankees’ Yogi Berra in 1955 in voting for the American League’s most valuable player. He would again finish second in the MVP race in 1963, to New York’s Elston Howard.
Among his many accomplishments, Al Kaline:
- Was an All Star selection 18 times
- Won ten Gold Gloves, all in right field
- Finished in the top ten MVP voting eight times
- Was the first Tiger to have his number (6) retired
- Played more games than any other Tiger player, 2,834
- Hit more home runs than any other Tiger, with 399
- Is second to Ty Cobb among Tigers in WAR, hits, total bases, RBI, and singles
The World Series eluded Kaline until 1968, when the Tigers won their first World championship in 43 years, as Kaline batted .379 with a pair of home runs and 19 total bases in 30 plate appearances against the St Louis Cardinals. His Tigers would return to the post season just one more time, falling to the Oakland A’s in 1972, 3 games to 2.
Kaline finished his career after the 1974 season with 3,007 hits, a batting average of .297, 399 homers, and 1,389 RBI. He also had a career .376 on base percentage, and slugged .480. He was a broadcaster on Tiger telecasts with George Kell from 1975 to 2002, and has been a special assistant to Tiger President Dave Dombrowski since 2003.