Today marks the 32 year anniversary of Al Kaline’s number being retired by the Detroit Tigers. On August 17th, 1980, the Tigers played a double header with the Texas Rangers. Despite both games resulting in a loss, the capacity crowd was able to celebrate the career of arguably the greatest player to ever wear a Tiger’s uniform when the team retired Kaline’s #6 jersey. Kaline spent his entire 22 season career with the Tigers, and has been a part of the organization since his retirement as a commentator and front office official, which earned him the nickname “Mr. Tiger.”
Kaline’s 22 season career started in 1953 at the age of 18 as a late inning outfield replacement for Jim Delsing. From there, Kaline went on to win 10 gold gloves, an AL batting title (1955) and a World Series championship (1968). His career .297 batting average, 399 home runs and 1,583 runs batted in earned him 18 All-Star game nominations as well. Kaline is also a member of the exclusive 3,000 hit club.
In 1968 Al Kaline missed two months that season due to a broken arm. In a move later called one of the ten greatest coaching decisions of the century by ESPN, Tiger manager Mayo Smith brought Kaline back into the lineup. Benching shortstop Ray Oyler and sending center fielder Mickey Stanley to take his spot helped to make room for Kaline in the outfield.
The St. Louis Cardinals were up three games to one in the 1968 World Series. In Game 5 the Cardinals had a 3-2 lead in the 7th inning. Kaline hit a single with the bases loaded, driving in two runs to take the lead. The Tigers went on to win Games 5, 6 & 7 to win their first World Championship since 1945. In seven games and his only World Series appearance Al Kaline hit .379 with two home runs and eight RBIs.
Kaline finished his career with 3,007 hits, 399 home runs and 1583 RBIs.
Al Kaline made his Major League debut on June 25, 1953, receiving $35,000 to sign with the Detroit Tigers at the age of 18. Below are a few facts that you may or may not have known that we found to be pretty interesting.
Al Kaline bypassed the minor league system joining the team right from Baltimore's Southern High School
During his rookie year he wore #25. After the 1953 season he asked teammate Pat Mullin for his #6 and wore the number for the rest of his career.
He played his whole career, 22 years, with the Detroit Tigers
In 1955 he became the youngest player to ever win the American League batting title. Ty Cobb was also twenty years old when he won a batting title but Kaline beat him out by a day being born just one day before Cobb.
In 1980 he was elected to the Hall of Fame, becoming the tenth player to be elected in their first year of eligibility.