Legendary Detroit Tiger and Hall of Famer Al Kaline died Monday in his Michigan home. He was 85 years old. “Mr. Tiger,” as he was affectionately dubbed, spent his entire 22-year playing career with the Tigers, helping the team win its third World Series championship in 1968 and bring some joy to the city after the devastating riots of 1967.
Signed to the majors the day after he graduated from high school, Kaline entered the league as a baby-faced 18-year-old in June 1953 and went on to have a Hall of Fame-worthy career. At 20 years old and 280 days, Kaline became the youngest player in history to win the American League batting title averaging .340 — one day younger than another Tigers legend, Ty Cobb, when he won in 1907 — in just his second full season. The right-fielder won 10 Golden Glove awards and was selected as an All-Star 18 times in his career, according to Baseball Reference. Kaline grew a reputation as a clutch player when he averaged .379 against St. Louis in the 1968 World Series, helping Detroit rally from a 3-1 deficit to win in seven games.
Kaline played 2,834 games for the Tigers — the most in the team’s history — and hit a franchise record 399 home runs over the course of his career (his 400th homer doesn’t count because it came during a game that was eventually rained out). He also holds the team record for most career walks (1,277) and sacrifice flies (104). Along with those team records, Kaline finished his career with 3,007 hits and a .297 batting average.
“I owe everything to baseball,” Kaline is quoted as saying on the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s website. “Without it, I’d probably be a bum.”
Following his legendary playing career, the beloved outfielder joined the Tigers broadcasting crew from 1976 to 2002 and also served as a special assistant to the general manager.
In 1980, “Mr. Tiger” was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Later that year, his No. 6 became the first number to be retired by the Tigers organization.
“If there is one accomplishment for which I am particularly proud, it is that I’ve always served baseball to the best of my ability,” Kaline said in his Hall of Fame induction speech. “Never have I ever deliberately done anything to discredit the game, the Tigers or my family. By far, being inducted into the Hall of Fame is the proudest moment of my life. You can be sure that I will make every effort to live up to the obligation associated with this honor.”