Sunday, July 17, 2011

Al Kaline (#410)

This is the last of 5 cards donated to this blog by Deans Cards a few months ago. (Dean has also contributed some 1963 and 1970 cards to the cause.)

I first became aware of Al Kaline back in 1967, although at that time I thought his name was pronounced Al Ka-LINE (like the battery). I also knew back then that he never played in the minor leagues. Since I've started blogging here, I've learned that Sandy Koufax, Dick Groat, and Billy O'Dell also never played in the minors. (Has anyone EVER included Sandy Koufax and Billy O'Dell in the same sentence?)

One thing I DID learn recently about Kaline (while researching teammate Charlie Maxwell) is that Al spent several seasons as the Tigers' center fielder.

Kaline was signed as a bonus baby by the Tigers in 1953, and spent his entire 22-year career (1953-74) with Detroit. He appeared in 30 games as a rookie, making his debut on June 23rd. Al only started 4 games that season, and none until September 16th.

Starting in 1954, Kaline became a fixture in the Tigers' outfield, and finished 3rd in the Rookie of the Year voting that season. He also won a gold glove 10 times between 1957 and 1967, and was an all star every season from 1955 to 1967, and again in 1971 and 1974.

As I mentioned above, I always thought Kaline played only right field during his prime. He was the team's regular in right field from 1954-58, 61-64, and 67. In 1959 and 1960, he started most of the games as the center fielder. From 1965-66, he split his time almost evenly between center and right. From 1968-70, Al played mostly right field but also started many games at 1st base. He wrapped up his career in 1974 as the Tigers' full-time designated hitter, playing 144 games there and none in the field.

Kaline played in the 1968 World Series against the Cardinals, batting .379. He finished with a .297 lifetime batting average, and led the American League in batting in 1955, finished 2nd in 1959, 1961, and 1963, and finished 3rd in 1966 and 1967.

Al was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Pete Rose (#30)

Here's an early card of the Hit King, courtesy of Dean's Cards. How early? Let's see: short hair, white Reds' cap, vest-top uniform, position = 2nd base, and career hits under 1000!

Pete Rose began his career as the Reds' regular 2nd baseman in 1963. In 1965 he started all 162 games at 2nd. In 1966, he began the season as the regular 3rd baseman. (I thought he didn't move to 3rd until George Foster showed up in the 1970s.) For the first 15 games, Rose played 3rd base while rookie Tommy Helms played 2nd base. Then, after switching positions with Helms, Rose started every game at 2B for the remainder of the season, except for 4 games off between 9/23 and 9/28.

I always thought he moved to the outfield during the 1966 season, since that was the first season without Frank Robinson, and because Rose's 1967 card shows him at 2B-OF. Not so. Pete moved to the outfield to start the 1967 season, starting 140 games in left field, and 1 in center. His only action at 2B that year was during a stretch of games from 7/2 to 8/4, while shortstop Chico Cardenas was on the DL. Regular 2nd baseman Helms moved over to short, Lee May went from 1st to left, and Deron Johnson was plugged in at 1st base.

Rose was a main cog in the Big Red Machine of the 1970s, and was the player that everyone (outside of Cincinnati) loved to hate. Guess what? Once he became a Phillie, that all magically changed! Once in Philly, Rose became a 1st baseman - the 5th position he would play in an all-star game.

After 2 trips to the World Series with the Phillies, Pete was on the move again, and came full circle back to Cincinnati.