News of the death of Al Kaline of all time on Monday sent a shock wave through the Major League Baseball community.
A generation of baseball fans lament the loss of many people’s favorite players, while condolences overwhelm social media. And rightly so. Kaline, who is 85 years old, is one of the best right fielders in baseball history.
His nickname is Mr. Tiger for a reason. Kaline spent all of her 22 years in the famous big league with Detroit, stretching from her debut in 1953 – when she was 18 years old outside high school – to retiring in 1974 after her 39th campaign.
Kaline is the youngest ever to win the 0.340 batting title in 1955 only to 20 years. He played in 18 All-Star Games, becoming only the 12th player in game history to surpass 3,000 hits and although he never won it, he received 14 awards from the American League Most Valuable Player Award.
Praise does not stop there. 92.8 Kaline’s career is the 29th best in the history of the Premiership. He won 10 Gold Gloves in the right field, hit 399 home runs and drove in 1,582.
Finally, in 1980, Kaline was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility – only the 10th player in baseball history at that time would be chosen as Cooperstown in his first year of voting.
Of all the historic achievements, and many more, Kaline’s game against the mighty New York Yankees proves what kind of soccer player she has been throughout her career. He produced against the best teams, played his best in clutch situations and risked his body – a testament to his dedication and ability to spectacular.
In the north two decades in the Department, Kaline was fit to fight Bomb 345 times. It was more than two seasons full of games.
Naturally, there were a number of seasons during Kaline’s tenure where New York was not as much a threat in the American League as 70-wins, finishing in last place in 1966 for example. However, for the most part, the Yankees are dominant. In the first 12 years of Kaline’s career, the Yankees won the banner 10 times. If you have a series against New York during this stretch, you will be dealing with people like Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Don Larsen, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
Facing such a talented club did not in the least obstruct Kaline’s skills for offense. When everything was set and done, the right winger retired with an average of .313 against the Yankees pitcher, the best of his career against one team. He has a base percentage of 0.392 against Bombers – also the best against one franchise – adding 164 steps to 380 of his base hits.
On Saturday in May 1962, against the Yankees, Kaline further showed in one game why he was one of the best right fielders to ever take on the big league field.
At Yankee Stadium, Kaline’s Tigers are 2-1 ahead of Bombers at the bottom of the ninth inning. With ties tied to the base, catcher Elston Howard ties the fly ball to the right. Kaline rolled around for victory, saving her collarbone in the process.
At that time in 1962, Kaline was in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career. Through the first 36 matches of the campaign, he hit 0.336 with 38 RBI. He could have let the ball fall, putting his body in first place ahead of the success of his team. As a replacement, Mr. Tiger played in only 100 matches that year, absent for two months.
Despite being absent for a long time due to injury – playing in the third fewest number of matches in his career in ’62 – Kaline reached the highest career with 29 home runs, almost drove in 100 runs and finished sixth with a vote for AL MVP. Imagine what numbers he can put if he stays healthy. However, when the game is near, you can count on Kaline to play hard and do anything to give Detroit a victory.
Finally, thanks largely to the Yankees’ dominance in the late 1950s and early 60s, the Tigers did not make a postseason during the first 15 years of Kaline’s career. However, when they did, the right winger took advantage of the opportunity on the national stage.
Down 3-1 in the series to the St. Louis Cardinals, Kaline stroked the base hit which ran twice in a row to help Detroit win Game 5. They then won the series in seven games – Kaline, won the World Series MVP, hit 0.379 with eight RBI in just the appearance of the World Series.
Kaline is loyal to one franchise, continuing to work in and around the Tigers organization at the broadcast booth after retiring and at the club’s front office in recent years. Pair it with his iconic career between the lines, play the game the right way, and Mr. Tiger is the gold standard.
So during these unprecedented times, with the coronavirus pandemic giving the world a daily reminder that life is greater than baseball, take a moment to celebrate the legacy left by a great man of all time.
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