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Sports Then and Now

Al Kaline: From Kid Star to Hall of Famer

Posted on May 31, 2015 by Dean Hybl
Al Kaline

Al Kaline

The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was only 20 years old in 1955 when he collected a league-leading 200 hits and won the American League batting title with a .340 batting title.

Much like the young stars of today, Al Kaline took the baseball world by storm in the 1950s when he made his major league debut at 18 and just two years later finished second in the MVP voting. In making his first All-Star team in 1955, Kaline not only won the only batting title of his career, but he also hit 27 home runs, scored 121 runs and drove home 102 runs.

The next year, Kaline finished third in the MVP voting while driving in a career-high 128 runs at the age of 21.

When Major League Baseball began awarding Gold Gloves for fielding excellence the following year (1957), Kaline was honored as the rightfielder. He went on to earn Gold Glove honors 10 times in the next 11 years.

In 1963, he finished second in the MVP voting for the second time in his career while finishing second in the league with a .312 batting average and 101 RBI.

As one of the most consistent players in baseball, Kaline earned All-Star honors for 13 consecutive years from 1955-1967, including nine times finishing in the top 10 in AL MVP voting.

Despite Kaline’s long period of consistent success, the Tigers were unable to build his success into a championship. The Tigers finished .500 or better 10 times between 1955 and 1967, but were no higher than second in the American League.

Ironically, in 1968 Kaline was limited to only 102 games and missed the All-Star game for the first time since his rookie year, but the Tigers won 103 games to reach the World Series for the first time since 1945.

Facing the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic, Kaline hit .379 with two home runs and eight RBI as the Tigers were able to win the championship in seven games.

Over the final six years of his career, the aging superstar was twice selected as an All-Star and helped the Tigers reach the American League Championship Series in 1972.

At the age of 39 in 1974, Kaline played in 147 games and passed the 3,000 career hit mark. He retired at the end of the season with 3,007 career hits, 498 career doubles, 399 career home runs, 1,582 RBI and a career .297 batting average.

In his first year of eligibility for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980, Kaline received 88% of the votes to earn induction. He is still recognized as one of the all-time great Detroit Tigers and often referred to as Mr. Tiger.

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