Al Kaline, ‘Mr. Tiger’, dead at 85

Al Kaline in 1957. Photo courtesy Detroit Tigers via Wikipedia. Public domain.

The baseball outfielder believed by many to be the greatest modern Detroit Tiger has died.

Hall-of-Fame right fielder Al Kaline, who played his entire 22-season career with the Detroit Tigers, passed away at his home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. A family spokesman confirmed Kaline’s passing Monday to the Detroit Free Press.

Kaline was 85. A cause of death was not immediately known.

Born in working-class Baltimore, Kaline joined the Tigers as an 18-year-old in 1953 after signing a contract with a $35,000 signing bonus. He soon helped bring life to a struggling franchise with his prowess at the plate and his defence in right field. In 1955, Kaline won the American League batting title at age 20, the youngest to win the award.

Kaline was on the 1968 team that won the World Series and joined the 3,000-hit club in September 1974, in the final days of his career.  He finished his career with 3,007 hits, second in Tigers history only to the legendary Ty Cobb. He also held the franchise record for home runs with 399.

Known as “Mr. Tiger” for his long service to the franchise and his gracious personality, Kaline worked briefly in the team’s front office right after retirement, but then picked up a second career as a broadcaster. He served as the Tigers’ television analyst from 1976 to 2002, mostly alongside play-by-play announcer and fellow Hall-of-Famer George Kell. Most recently, he returned to the Tigers’ front office as an assistant to the general manager.

Kaline was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980 on the first ballot, and his #6 was retired by the Tigers that same year.