Baseball legend Al Kaline, considered "Mr. Tiger" for his profound impact on Detroit baseball, died Monday at the age of 85.
A statement from Detroit Tigers Chairman and CEO, Christopher Ilitch pic.twitter.com/71KpBlyOy6— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) April 6, 2020
Kaline's Hall of Fame career began in 1953 and spanned 22 big league seasons all spent with the Tigers. His resume pops: 15 All-Star game appearances, 10 Gold Gloves and four top-five MVP finishes. The statistics are eye-catching, too: 3,007 hits, 399 home runs and a .297 career average.
But the legacy of Al Kaline is summarized far better by his Mr. Tiger monicker. It encompasses all of his well-earned honors on the field, but more so, what he meant to the city of Detroit. He made his debut for the Tigers as an 18-year-old kid near the end of the 1953 season without a minor league game under his belt, meaning he never stepped foot on a professional diamond as a member of any other team.
Kaline finished third on the 1954 Rookie of the Year ballot. The next year, at the age of 20, he was the MVP runner-up, and he finished third the year after that. He stood out beyond the traditional measures, too. He walked 257 more times than he struck out and was a rare player known as much for his glove as his bat. Right field at Comerica Park is immortalized as "Kaline's corner."
He never won MVP, didn't end his career with a .300 average or hit 400 home runs. He never even hit 30 home runs in a season. But while he wasn't in the spotlight like Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays, he nonetheless became baseball royalty as a humble kid from Baltimore who focused on effort, discipline and defense. He was Mr. Tiger.
Baseball community react to the passing of Al Kaline
Such a kind and generous man who meant so much to so many. I hope you knew how much I enjoyed our conversations about baseball, life, or just giving each other a hard time. I am honored to have been able to call you my friend for all these years. R.I.P. Mr Tiger, Al Kaline.— Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) April 6, 2020
One of the best days in my short MLB career was being able to sit down in a Baltimore restaurant and share a cup of coffee with not only a incredible baseball player but a even better human being. You will be missed Mr. Kaline #RIPMrTiger— Buck Farmer (@B_Farm09) April 6, 2020
Mr Kaline truly is one of the kindest most welcoming ppl Ive ever met. From shaking his hand the 1st day I was a tiger to seeing him every single Sunday at the park, he was always genuine. Greeting every player with kindness and a listening ear. I’m going to miss you Mr Tiger.— Matthew Boyd (@mattboyd48) April 6, 2020
Someone that was always willing to give back. A man that always made you feel good about yourself and gave you hope when you were in his presence. You will truly be missed Al Kaline aka Mr. Tiger! @MLB @tigers @MLB_PLAYERS #AlKaline— Niko Goodrum (@NikoGoodrum) April 6, 2020
Mr. Kaline is a legend. Not only in Detroit or baseball, but just an amazing human being. Mr. Kaline asked me if he and his wife could come to my house and join us for our weekly bible study this spring training. He took time to play with my son and talk to everybody that....— Michael Fulmer (@MFulmer12) April 6, 2020
He was the only fielder who could make the ball come to him. Goodbye, #6. #AlKaline— Jeff Daniels (@Jeff_Daniels) April 6, 2020
Sad to hear we’ve lost a beloved member of our HOF family one of the nicest and sincere I’ve ever met Al Kaline you will be dearly missed my friend thoughts and prayers go out Louise and family RIP Al— Wade Boggs (@ChickenMan3010) April 6, 2020
One of my favorite people, Al Kaline passes away. Such a graceful, elegant player. Always put the Tigers on my away schedule, just to see, talk with Al. My condolences to Louise , family and friends. #RIP @masnOrioles @tigers— Jim Palmer (@Jim22Palmer) April 6, 2020
One of my favorite things about my many spring training trips to Lakeland was walking into that clubhouse and seeing Al Kaline - in full uniform.— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) April 6, 2020
I tried never to miss a chance to talk to Al. So kind. So welcoming. So smart. So observant. So interested in everything. RIP, Al. https://t.co/7iA1fn6Htr