Other Free Encyclopedias » Famous Sports Stars » Baseball » Al Kaline Biography - From The Sandlot To The Stadium, The Tigers On A Tear, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments

Al Kaline - From The Sandlot To The Stadium

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One scout, Ed Katalinas, signed the eighteen-year-old Kaline to a $35,000 bonus "right off the Baltimore sandlots," as a Baseball Library.com article put it, "and Al never played one inning in the minor leagues." Drafted by the Tigers, Kaline made his professional bow midseason, on June 25, 1953, in the game that also marked his debut as a right-fielder. Kaline was given the modest task of a pinch-runner that day, but the young man soon began to make his mark. In fewer than thirty trips to the plate that year, Kaline collected seven hits, including a home run. He even hit a single off the great pitcher Satchel Paige.

Kaline's first full rookie year of 1954 was characterized by a relatively low .276 batting average. A highlight of that year was Kaline's first grand-slam home run, making him the second-youngest player to date to accomplish that feat. But by the 1955 season, Kaline had hit his stride, muscling up to 175 pounds and hitting.340. At age twenty, he was the youngest player to win an American League batting championship. But all the early acclaim didn't sit well with the soft-spoken hitter. "The worst thing that happened to me in the big leagues was the start I had," he was quoted by Sports Illustrated writer Jack Olsen in 1964. "Everybody said this guy's another Ty Cobb, another Joe DiMaggio. How much pressure can you take? What they didn't know is I'm not that good a hitter…. I have to work as hard if not harderthan anybody in the league."

Kaline's early reticence regarding his celebrity led some newspapermen to label the ballplayer as standoffish. But in Kaline's view, "I was just quiet," as he told Olsen. "And the guys who didn't know me would say, 'Look at this stuck-up kid.' But it was just my way. I don't talk much." Instead, Kaline let his bat do the talking. Known for his consistency, the right-hander averaged 150 hits per season. By 1959 Kaline had clinched the American League slugging championship when he compiled a .530 slugging percentage in 511 times at bat. Overall, Kaline's batting average for the year was .327.

For all his talent, Kaline was no stranger to adversity, beginning in 1954 when he ran into a wall chasing a fly ball and spent five days in the hospital. Kaline fractured his cheekbone in 1959. He also fractured his right collarbone diving for a catch on May 26, 1962, and was benched for two months, returning to play with a game-winning single. Showing no further break in his momentum, Kaline finished that abbreviated season with twenty-nine home runs and ninety-four runs batted in. But injuries continued to plague Kaline throughout his career, sidelining the hitter for some 200 games over fifteen years. In June 1967, for instance, Kaline broke his hand after jamming his bat into a bat rack after striking out. He missed twenty-eight games that season.

Al Kaline - The Tigers On A Tear [next]

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over 10 years ago

I have been a Detroit Tiger and Al Kaline fan since childhood.

When Al Kaline broke his collarbone in 1962, he may have been on his way of getting close to Babe Ruth's homerun record.

My young adult children are enthusiastic Tiger fans today.