Baseball Legend Al Kaline On His 22 Years With The Detroit Tigers
I sat down with Baseball Hall of Famer Al Kaline to reflect on his 22 years of playing baseball with the Detroit Tigers. In 1953, at the tender age of 18, Kaline signed with the Tigers and made his major league debut as a late-inning replacement in the outfield.
Many baseball enthusiasts remember you wearing #6. In fact, #6 has been retired by the Tigers in your honor. But when you first started playing in 1953, you wore #25. Why did you make the switch to #6?
Stan Musial was my favorite player and my hero. I just needed to wear his number 6 on my back. During my playing days with the Tigers, I only asked them for two things. Changing my uniform number was one of them. I also asked for additional World Series tickets in 1968.
Who was the toughest pitcher you faced?
There are so many. Very difficult to single out just one. I did very well against established pitchers. Frank Sullivan on the Red Sox gave me some problems. I didn’t enjoy facing Bob Gibson in the 1968 World Series.
What’s your best memory of playing in the 1968 World Series?
The excitement and attention you got from being a player on one of the teams. We had a chance to play against the very best and become world champions. It was also great to see how I would perform under pressure.
What’s the biggest difference between baseball today and baseball in the 1950s and 1960s?
Pitching. Pitchers today don’t pitch nine innings. Pitchers are specialized today, and the pen pitchers realize they only have one inning to pitch, so they throw as hard as they can for one inning. Additionally, hitters aren’t embarrassed today to strike out. When I played, we were embarrassed if we struck out 100 times in a season.
What keeps you busy today?
I don’t have any hobbies. My wife asks me to retire, and I say, “Do what?” If I wasn’t working, I would be watching games. I see the beauty in a baseball game. I can watch it and become a manager sitting in the stands.
What is your current role with the Tigers?
[Tigers owner] Mr. [Mike] Illitch is a friend of mine and wanted me to be in the front office instead of doing TV broadcasts for the Tigers.
Are front offices today looking at player conduct off the field and not just the performance on the field?
Absolutely. Our owner doesn’t want anybody that is a trouble maker. He will ask about character during our meetings. However, there are hundreds and hundreds of baseball players that are world class. They are role models off the field in how they treat others and give back to their respective communities.
Many thanks to Mr. Kaline for his time