A Look Back at Al Kaline’s Last Game

In recognition of Miguel Cabrera’s final season, the future Hall of Famer will be honored at Comerica Park on Saturday, September 30th with a pre-game ceremony that will include gifts and guest speakers while the first 15,000 fans will receive a special Cabrera T-shirt.

Miggy’s final curtain call will take place the next day on October 1st as the Tigers finish the season against Cleveland.

Hopefully Cabrera’s farewell will fare far better than Tiger legend Al Kaline’s last game that took place at Tiger Stadium 50 years ago next year on October 2, 1974.

Like Cabrera, Kaline never played in the field in his final season and served as a designated hitter.

Although it was a dismal season with the Tigers finishing in last place in the Eastern Division with a 72-90 record, virtually the lone highlight occurred on September 24th when Kaline slashed a double off Dave McNally in Baltimore to become the 12th player in baseball history to collect 3,000 hits.

In recognition of his feat, a second Al Kaline Day was held (the first was on August 2, 1970) on Sunday, September 29. Fans received an Al Kaline 3,000 hits poster and in pregame ceremonies Tiger owner John Fetzer presented Kaline with 3,000 silver dollars that were rolled onto the field in a wheelbarrow pushed by bat boy Dennis Clotworthy. The 21,000 fans in attendance saw Kaline go 2-for-4 with two singles.

Three days later, in miserable weather with wind and temperatures in the 30’s, a crowd of only 4,671 fans were hand to see Kaline’s final game as the Tigers finished out the season against the division winning Orioles.

In the first inning Kaline struck out on a called third strike delivered by Mike Cuellar. In the third inning he lined out to Al Bumbry in left field. and when he returned to the dugout the Tiger legend informed manager Ralph Houk that he was done.

The crowd was hoping to see Kaline at least get a hit in his final game and especially a home run which would have been his 400th that would make him the first American League player with 3,000 hits and 400 homers.

But then in the fifth inning, to everyone’s shock, Ben Oglivie approached home plate as a pinch hitter for Kaline as Tiger Stadium was showered in a chorus of boos.

However, the fans were unaware that after Kaline had flied out in the third inning, he told manager Ralph Houk that he was through.

Bothered with a sore shoulder, after the game Kaline told reporters:

“I haven’t been able to swing the last couple of times up. I was punching the ball up there. There was no way I was going to hit the 400th home run. I told Ralph I couldn’t swing and to take me out of the game. I’m glad its over. I’ll miss the guys, but I won’t miss playing.”

Kaline finished the final season of his 22-year career batting .262 with 146 hits, 13 home runs, and 64 RBIs while compiling a career batting average of .297 to go along with 18 All-Star selections and 10 Gold Glove awards. The 1968 World Champion still holds the American League record as the youngest player to win a batting title which he accomplished in 1955 at age 20 with a .340 average in his second full season.

The Baltimore native had one more Al Kaline Day at Tiger Stadium.

On Sunday, August 17, 1980, his famous number 6 was retired in pregame ceremonies two weeks after he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Years later Kaline reflected on his final game in the 2010 biography by Jim Hawkins entitled Al Kaline: The Biography of a Tigers Icon.

“That was one of the most disappointing days of my life. Maybe I’m too naïve, but I already knew I was going to retire and I just thought, That’s it. It’s over. I didn’t even think about the fans. When Ben Oglivie had to pinch hit for me in the fifth inning he got booed. I was sitting there in the clubhouse and I could hear them booing. That has ranked up there with my biggest regrets. It wasn’t his fault. I remember my wife waiting for me at our car out in the players’ parking lot after the game and she was crying.”

Once asked how he would sum up his career, Kaline said, “I showed up, I played, and I loved it.”

One reply on “A Look Back at Al Kaline’s Last Game

  • Matt

    Great article, did not know the facts behind his final day. I did at the time knew about the “ 400/3000” club. He was my favorite. A true professional, and athlete and champion. Thank you for this article.

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