Former Detroit Tigers player and sportscaster Al Kaline died last week at the age of 85.
Kaline, nicknamed “Mr. Tiger,” left an extraordinary record on and off the field. He played for 22 years with the team followed by a long career as a broadcaster and advisor to the Tigers organization.
“The fact that he was with the Tigers’ organization for 67 years was amazing. They relied on his knowledge.” — Bill Dow, author and historian
CultureShift’s Amanda LeClaire spoke with Bill Dow, Tigers author and historian pictured above with Kaline, about the Tigers’ lasting legacy. He said Kaline didn’t always loom so large over the team.
“When he arrived, one of the security people thought he was a bat boy,” Dow recalled. “He was 155 pounds, 6’1… a bean pole. He ended up wearing a bat boy’s uniform.”
Kaline arrived in Detroit straight out of high school in Baltimore in 1953. Within two years, he was the youngest player in American league history to win a batting title at the age of 20 (beating out Ty Cobb by one day).
“He was just a remarkable player,” Dow says.
His baseball career speaks for itself: Ten Gold Gloves, 18 All Star games, 10th player in history to be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot, 12th player to get 3,000 hits.
But Kaline’s on-field successes were only beginning of a long career involved with the Tigers, from being a team broadcaster to offering advice. Dow says this is the result of his “common touch.”
“He was very gracious,” Dow says. “The fact that he was with the Tigers’ organization for 67 years was amazing. They relied on his knowledge.”
Even later in life, Kaline was known to attend Tigers’ games, make his way to the locker room and make himself available as a resource for players.
“If they wanted some advice, they could come and ask him,” Dow says.