Team: Detroit Tigers, 1953-1974
Al Kaline is the only member of the
3,000-hit club who achieved all of his
personal batting highs before he
Albert William Kaline (born in 1934) was raised to be a baseball player; his grandfather, father, and uncles had all been semi-pro players. Al played on so many extracurricular teams that he would play three or four games on any given Sunday, changing uniforms in the car.
All of that extra work paid off, though, because he hit .488 in his senior year in high school. Every team was interested in obtaining him, but he chose to sign with the Detroit Tigers for $30,000.
Al never played an inning of minor-league ball, since the bonus rule required that he stay on the big-league roster for at least two years. He was tossed into his first big-league game as a pinch hitter the day he signed, right out of high school. He was a big-league defender from day one, and he knew it: "The first time I went out to play with the outfielders I said, 'Hey, I'm as good as any of these guys. I can throw better than anybody here, and I can go get the ball with any of them.'"
In Kaline's second full season, 1955, he proved he was also a major-league hitter. He won the batting title that season, hitting .340 with a league-high 200 hits and 27 home runs. He established himself as a premier player, and finished a close second in the MVP vote to Yogi Berra. Al batted .314 in 1956, with 194 base hits, 27 homers, and a career-high 128 RBI.
As good as Kaline was -- and he had some good teammates, too, like Norm Cash, Jim Bunning, and Rocky Colavito -- the Tigers were only a mediocre team. In-season management changes were a regular occurrence. From 1957 to 1967, Kaline batted from .280 to .300, with 18 to 25 homers and 70 to 100 RBI.
The Tigers jelled in 1968, winning the pennant, but Kaline broke his leg and played in only 102 games. In the World Series, Tiger manager Mayo Smith gambled that outfielder Mickey Stanley could handle shortstop so Al could play right field. The gamble paid off when Kaline batted .379, slugged .655, and drove in eight runs as the Tigers won their first world championship since 1945. Kaline was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980.
Here are Al Kaline's major league totals:
|BA||G ||AB||R||H||2B ||3B||HR ||RBI ||SB |
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