Adults Rarely Have Heroes. Al Kaline Was Mine.

Former Detroit Tigers player Al Kaline died this week at the age of 85. Royal Oak native Dave Miller remembers the man he never stopped calling ‘hero.’

Most kids all have heroes, but few adults do. My hero was Al Kaline. 

Al Kaline signed with the Detroit Tigers in 1953, the year I happened to be born.

As a kid, growing up, I used to play a lot of baseball. And I would often imagine that I was Al Kaline. I had an Al Kaline mitt, and it had his name inside that mitt. I used that mitt through Little League, junior high, high school, and I still have it today.

I stood there and I watched him. All of a sudden, he starts heading towards me. And I’m staring at him. This is my hero. 

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller

My mother used to take me to several games a summer.

Walking out at Tiger Stadium, and seeing that green grass, and that blue sky, and those whiter than white uniforms; my eyes would always be looking for Al Kaline. 

Kaline played for 22 years for the Detroit Tigers. He won one World Series in 1968 with the team. He retired and he was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980 on the first ballot. 

He went into broadcasting, so I was able to watch him for many years as a Detroit Tigers team broadcaster. 

About 30 years ago, I went to the Senior Players Championship, which was being held at the TCP Michigan golf course in Dearborn. I decided to take a half a day off of work in the morning.

I walked around the course and saw Lee Trevino and Chi-Chi Rodríguez and Jack Nicklaus, super stars of golf. And it became about noon, and I thought, I better get back to the office.

I recognized the signature, “Al Kaline” — the same one that was on my mitt. 

As I’m walking to the parking lot, I pass the practice green and I look to my left and I saw a man standing at the back of the practice green.

I looked, and I stopped, and I realized it was Al Kaline. 

I stood there and I watched him putting. All of a sudden, he picks up his golf balls, and he starts heading towards me. And I’m staring at him. This is my hero. 

As he walked up to me, I looked down at my feet and realized his golf bag was right there. I recognized the signature, “Al Kaline” — the same one that was on my mitt. 

He’s staring me, and I’m staring at him. He extends his right hand to me, and says, “Hi, I’m Al Kaline.” 

Click on the player above to hear Royal Oak native Dave Miller recount the time he met his hero, former Tigers player Al Kaline.

This piece was produced by filmmaker and storyteller Andrew Miller.

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  • Dave Miller
    Dave Miller is a Royal Oak resident and longtime Detroit TIgers fan.
  • Amanda LeClaire
    Amanda LeClaire is an award-winning host and producer of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. She’s a founding producer of WDET’s flagship news talk show Detroit Today, and a former host/reporter for Arizona Public Media. Amanda is also an artist, certified intuitive and energy healer, and professional tarot reader.