Published 12:04 p.m. ET April 7, 2020 |
A look at the life of Al Kaline, the Detroit Tigers great, who died on April 6, 2020, aged 85.
Detroit Free Press
I became a Tiger in June 1953, when I was 18 years old. I joined the team in Philadelphia and then went to St. Louis, then came to Detroit. Then we landed at Willow Run Airport and took a bus back to Detroit. We came down Michigan Avenue. I was sitting next to Johnny Pesky and he said, “Now I’ll show you what Briggs Stadium looks like.”
It was about 1 or 2 in the morning and it said, “It’s going to look like a big oats battle ship.” And sure enough, I looked out through the darkness and it looked like a big ol ‘battleship.
Pesky said, “We call it” The Old Lady. “
The next day was the first time I walked into the stadium. I stayed downtown at the Wolverine Hotel and went to the park with a guy named Johnny Bucha, a catcher. I went out onto the field right before I went into the dressing room, and it was green. It was incredible how beautiful it was. All seats were green. It was amazing. I’ve never seen anything like it was just from high school.
Of course, since I was little, they put me in the last cupboard all the way in the back. They had very few young guys at that time. Everyone spent a lot of time in minor leagues before they got a chance at majors, so I was not greeted so well. We had many guys who were 26 or 27 years old, and it seemed pretty old to me back then.
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When I first joined the club we only had 12 or 14 night games a year. It was amazing; every time – it didn’t matter if it was the Washington Senators or the New York Yankees – we had a full house. We had 50,000 people.
Perhaps my biggest memory there was to hit three home runs in a game, two in the same inning, one Sunday afternoon against A’s 1955.
And I remember that Reggie Jackson hit a home run in the ‘All-Star Game’. You have to know the situation in that game. He had two strikes on him, and being so aggressive with two strikes is just phenomenal. Boy, when he hit that ball and it went all the way to the transformer, I didn’t believe it. He knocked it off Dock Ellis.
Of course, there are many memories too after I stopped playing and started broadcasting.
I had a difficult time at first, no question about it, too many guys on the team were still my friends. There were three guys in the booth, and I didn’t know when to talk. The “professional” announcer would say something about the game and even though I thought it was wrong, I didn’t correct it and let it ride. But I finally decided that I couldn’t do it, that I had to correct it and say exactly what I thought was going on,
When the team moves it will be very sad for me personally because Tiger Stadium is the only place I have ever worked – every summer of my life since I left high school.
Al Kaline played his first game at Briggs Stadium on July 16, 1953. He pinched for Bob Nieman at first base with one out in the ninth inning and the Tigers beat Boston, 3-2. Pinch hitter Bud Souchock then grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. Kaline played his last game at Tiger Stadium on October 2, 1974. Like DH, he struck out and looked in the first round and flew out to left field in the third round. He was replaced by pinch-hitter Ben Oglivie in the fifth round of what would be a 5-4 loss to Baltimore.