There are few players who touch a team and a city the way Al Kaline touched the Detroit Tigers. On Monday afternoon, the devastating news came that the legendary player has passed away at the age of 85 at his home in Bloomfield Heights, MI.
Kaline, elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980, achieved so much in his whopping 22-year career with the Tigers. He was an 18-time All-Star, a 10-time Gold Glove winner, and of course a member of the 1968 World Series team.
A Baltimore, Maryland native, Kaline came from modest means. A condition in childhood necessitated surgery that left his foot permanently deformed, yet he became a standout athlete in multiple sports by the time he was in high school. Converted from a pitcher to an outfielder, Kaline went on to make the All-State team all four years of his high school career. He elected to sign with the Detroit Tigers out of high school for a $35K bonus.
Even after his incredible tenure with the team, Kaline remained with the club, Kaline served as the Tigers color commentator from 1975-2002, and starting in 2003 until this season he was a special assistant to the general manager, becoming a permanent fixture in Lakeland, FL every spring training, offering his guidance and years of experience to every new generation of Tigers players.
Known as “Mr. Tiger,” his number 6 was retired in 1980, the same season he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Al Kaline was the face, the name, and the heart of the team. He will be missed.