Al Kaline, the legendary Detroit Tigers outfielder who played for more than two decades, has died at the age of 85. It’s not clear what caused his death.
Known as “Mr. Tiger,” Kaline started playing for Detroit at just 18 years old right out of high school in 1953, and despite being from Baltimore, he made the Motor City his home, playing here for 22 consecutive years.
He was the 12th player in Major League Baseball history to reach the elite 3,000-hit club, and the second Detroit Tigers player following Ty Cobb.
Kaline joined the club in his hometown on Sept. 24, 1974, in his final games as a Tigers player.
“I owe everything to baseball,” Kaline said, according to the Baseball Hall of Fame. “Without it, I’d probably be a bum.”
Chuck Dressen, who coached the Tigers from 1963-66, told the Baseball Hall of Fame, “In my heart, I’m convinced Kaline is the best player who ever played for me. For all-around ability – I mean hitting, fielding, running and throwing – I’ll go with Al.”
Kaline made the All-Star Game in every season from 1955-1967, and again in 1971 and 1974. He won the Gold Glove 10 times, from 1957-59 and again from 1961-67.
He has played the most games ever in a Detroit Tigers uniform, 2,834, leads the team in career home runs with 399, and is second in RBIs with 1,583.
He helped Detroit win the 1968 World Series, hitting .379 with two home runs and eight RBIs.
In 1980, Kaline was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming only the 10th player in history to be elected in his first year of eligibility. The Tigers also honored him by retiring his number, No. 6, the first number the team retired.
The city of Detroit also honored Kaline, announcing when he signed his contract in 1970 that Aug. 2 would be known as “Al Kaline Day.”
According to Vintage Detroit, the city also renamed Cherry Street, off of Trumbull near old Tiger Stadium, “Kaline Drive.”
“This is the greatest day of my life. There have been so many people who have helped me get to the big leagues and who have helped me stay there, it would be impossible for me to acknowledge them all,” he’s said in his speech, according to Vintage Detroit. I can still remember back to June, 1953, and I can honestly say I thank God I chose to play for the team here in Detroit, as I did. I will always remember this day, and I will always remember you, the fans, and the support you have given me, and I can say that from the Bottom of my heart.”
Kaline continued to live in the metro Detroit area after his retirement and was the color commentator on the team’s TV broadcasts from 1975 through 2002 with the legendary George Kell.
He joined the team as special assistant and adviser to the club’s senior management in January 2002, where he continued to serve. He spent nearly 70 years in the Detroit Tigers organization.
“People ask me, was it my goal to play in the majors for 20 years? Was it my goal to get 3,000 hits someday? Lord knows, I didn’t have any goals,” Kaline said according to the Hall of Fame. “I tell them, ‘My only desire was to be a baseball player.’”