Friday, July 29, 2011

#215 - Al Kaline

This is the final regular card of Al Kaline's career. He would get a feature card in the '75 set as a tribute to his joining the 3,000 hit club, but there would be no more stats for Al. Here he gets an action shot in what may be Comiskey as he gets his game face on at first base.

Al Kaline came out of a Baltimore high school right to the major leagues, signed as a bonus baby by the Tigers in '53 for $35,000. Unlike may of those signees Al never played a game in the minors and by '54 was starting in the Detroit outfield. In '55 he became the youngest player ever to win a league batting title - he was 20 - by hitting .340 and leading the league with 200 hits and in total bases. He came in second that year to Yogi Berra in MVP voting. In '56 he had his best power season and in '57 he won the first of what would be ten career Gold Gloves. In '65 and '68 Al spent some time on the DL. The last year would be significant in Series history because Al was able to come back in time for the post-season but by then Detroit was set in the outfield with Willie Horton, Mickey Stanley, and Jim Northrup. To get Al back in the lineup manager Mayo Smith moved Stanley to shortstop for the Series, benching Ray Oyler and it worked like a charm as Detroit won in seven. Al hit .389 for the Series with eight RBIs. In '71 he returned to the All-Star game - he'd been in every one from '55 to '67 - and in '72 he got some MVP votes as the aged Tigers made the playoffs. In '74 Al upped his at bats by being the team's exclusive DH in getting his 3,000th hit; he would finish with 3,007. He also made his last All-Star team. He hit .297 with 399 homers, 1,583 RBIs, and a .376 OBA. In the post-season he .333 with three homers and nine RBIs in 12 games. He was elected to the Hall in '80, his first year of eligibility.

Al has an interesting name, when you resort to Google to do your research like I do. Along with some posts on Al you get lots of stuff about batteries. Al has a great card back except that '73 was his first year of lifetime sub-.300 career average since his rookie year. He would not coach after he played but did put in a long gig - '75 to 2003 - as the Tigers' color guy. He has since done some admin work for the team and is still one of the most popular Detroit athletes of all time.

A lot of Al's contemporaries stuck around forever so this may be tough:

1. Kaline and Tony Taylor '71 to '73 Tigers;
2. Taylor and Larry Bowa '70 Phillies;
3. Bowa and Billy Grabarkewitz '73 to '74 Phillies.

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