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.


Anonymous said...

I really like this Kaline card. I didn't know the Tigers wore numbers on their sleeves back then... and I can't help but wonder what ballpark that's in. Love the scenery. Love the pose.

Jim from Downingtown said...

The Tigers (and I think the White Sox) wore the sleeve numbers. They aren't on both sleeves, and I used to wonder why all the players didn't have the number on the same sleeve. Years later, I heard they were called "TV numbers", so that the camera would see the number while the player was batting, so that explains it.)