Al Kaline Became My Hero in ’62 with Game Saving Catch

On Saturday May 26, 1962 at Yankee Stadium before a national television audience, Al Kaline once again demonstrated why he was one of the greatest right fielders in baseball history.

Al Kaline makes a game saving catch and breaks his collarbone at Yankee Stadium on May 26, 1962.

With the Tigers leading 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and the tying run on base, Yankee catcher Elston Howard sliced a fly ball to shallow right field. Kaline raced in and reached down to snare the ball while rolling over on his right shoulder.

Number six saved the game for the Tigers but he would be out for two months with a broken collarbone. It turned out to be a huge loss for the Tigers who had nearly won a pennant the previous year. Kaline was batting .345 with 13 home runs and 38 RBI and off to what might have been the best season of his career.

As a seven year old I can still remember picking up the next day’s Detroit News with a banner headline on the top of the front page: KALINE OUT 2 MONTHS WITH BROKEN BONE. The photo that accompanies this article also appeared with the screaming headline. In the sports section there appeared six photos in sequence of Kaline making his spectacular catch and then writhing in pain.

From that day on, I was hooked on Al Kaline. I used to imitate him making that diving catch and was just lucky I also didn’t break my right clavicle.

Kaline made so many fantastic catches, whether it was diving for balls, running down long fly balls, or climbing a fence and with perfect timing robbing a batter of a home run. I have five different photos of Kaline making great catches and every one is against the dreaded Yankees. Four of the five are at Yankee Stadium.

Never mind his remarkable ability to make spectacular catches.

Kaline’s arm was a howitzer.

He once threw out at runner at second while making a throw from a sitting position. And when a hitter sliced a ball into Kaline’s Corner at Tiger Stadium, Al would make his patented spin playing the ball off the wall before whirling to make a throw at second. If he didn’t throw the runner out, chances are its because the runner didn’t even try for second knowing of Kaline’s powerful arm.

One of my greatest memories at Tiger Stadium occurred while sitting in the third row of the upper deck between home and third.

A long fly ball was hit to Kaline, and as he caught it, Baltimore’s Paul Blair tagged from third and headed home. Suddenly, half way down the line, Blair turned back and dove for third because Kaline had thrown the ball directly into catcher Bill Freehan’s glove on the fly. I am not kidding, the whole crowd stood as one and gave Kaline a loud standing ovation.

It still gives me chills.

If you want to read more on Kaline’s legendary career, check out the two new books on number six that were just released. The first is Al Kaline: The Biography of a Tigers Icon by Jim Hawkins (Triumph Publishing) and Six: A Salute to Al Kaline by Dan Ewald (Olympia Entertainment). The latter is only available at Comerica Park.

22 replies on “Al Kaline Became My Hero in ’62 with Game Saving Catch

  • Mike Noethen

    Bill,

    My Dad would have been 100 years old last October. I was 11 when my Dad and I watched Al Kaline make that catch, watching on TV from Jackson, MI. He was everyone’s sports hero at the time and I can remember first, the sadness of his fall when he tried to catch that ball, the happiness when he raised his hand to show the ball was in his glove, and then the almost horror when we realized that he had seriously hurt himself when he made that catch. There was a rumor a year or so after that concerning his contract negotiaton that indicated he had been offered $100,000/year and he turned it down, saying that “No baseball player is worth $100,000/year.” I was really young and don’t know if that’s true, but it’s a great story, keeping in line with the clean-cut kind of player that Kailine was. I’m 60 now, and still think he is the epitomy of one of America’s all-time greatest leaders of the game. I had the opportunity to be at a Tigers game around 73 or 74 in the front row beside the Tigers’ dugout against the relatively new Milwaukee Brewers. It was my good fortune to be able to see Norm Cash, Al Kaline, Harvey Kuehn, and newcomer Robin Yount all working the same game. If you don’t know the significance of that game, you don’t know baseball…LOL…coincedentally, I live in Milwaukee now—small world.

    Reply
  • JamesS

    The really remarkable things about Kaline’s throws is that they were never more than 6-7′ off the ground. The right field foul line at Tiger Stadium was 315′ if I remember correctly. So those throws when Kaline was deep were over 100 yards and little more than an average man’s height above the ground. What an arm.

    Reply
    • Russell Rokanas

      Actually the right field Foul poll was 315 feet but it was from the upper deck the upper deck overhang as they called it stuck out 10 feet further than the lower deck that is 325 feet so you both are right

      Reply
  • Neff Nash

    My baseball style was directly influenced by Mr. Kaline — crashing into structures, diving & shattering fingers on the ground and throwing runners out that thought they had it made. My introduction to BB and Al was during the Baseball Game of the Week with Pee Wee Reese. My dad said “If this hitter hits it to Al, he will throw the 2nd base runner out at 3rd. He did exactly that. OF arms are embarassing today because of the emphasis on hitting and the casualness of OF play. No one respects any OF arm. NO ONE throws anybody out! Statistically,(I looked it up)Al was the BEST defensive OF that ever played — NO, not Mays or Clemente. The assists and errors are the telling numbers because they show the outs he produced and the fewest bases he allowed. He also was as classy a player as ever played. Sports Illustrated should assign a story about Al’s history before he passes, instead of the tiny mentions given in the first pages. Al was always quiet, never attracting attention for anything other than his play. His name should be first, before Mays or any other OF is mentioned. He would not fit today – I would not like seeing him having to be among the arrogance, and self-centered attitudes of today’s players. Al “would have played the game for lunch money” — “Hell, I would have played for nothing”. I love you Al

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  • Jim Fulmer

    Bill, thanks for posting this. I was also seven years old at the time and I sent a get well soon card to my hero. He responded “Dear Jim, thank you for your card and well wishes. I appreciate it more than you think.” I’ve often wondered how much I might have embellished history with my memory of the event. I had most of it right, except that my story had Mickey Mantle at bat rather than Elston Howard. Glad to be set straight. Kaline’s letter looks as though it was he who typed it; I’d like to think that one of today’s Tigers would do the same, though I wonder. In any case, Kaline affirmed a love of baseball and for the Tigers that continues to this day, 50 years and hopefully a World Series birth later.

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  • StanP

    That was the only game I ever attended at Yankee Stadium. I was an 11-year old Tigers fan, misplaced to Delaware, & I was able to talk my dad into seeing the Tigers play their nemesis in NY. My memory is clear on that final play – the score, the runner on base, the line drive, Kaline rolling, then not getting up. The only gap is that I would have sworn it was mid-summer. As we walked up to the exit, a couple of the Tigers staff were tending to Kaline & he was still down when we left. I was crushed when I saw the headline the next morning. Ten years later, living in Tempe, AZ, I had a roommate from NJ who was also a sports fan. In comparing stories one night, we learned that we were both in Yankee Stadium for that fateful game. Thanks for the post.

    Reply
  • Michael Lopez

    I was also watching that game on a Saturday afternoon on a black and white television. That moment Al Kaline became my childhood hero and a lifetime tiger fan.

    Reply
  • Glen Lampa

    My cousin Alex Webster took my brothers and I to this game. Had our picture taken with Roger Maris and Ralph Houk in the Yankee dugout. Roger Maris was a great guy as was Elston Howard and Phil Linz. Mickey Mantle wasn’t there that day.

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  • Shelly

    Love reading stories of Al Kaline! He is my all time favorite Tiger!!! Got to sit in Kaline’s Corner at Comerica this past summer while visiting Michigan!

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  • Kurt

    My brother’s middle name is Kaline, born in ’56. Our dad always held Kaline up to his baseball playing sons as the role model for how the game was to be played. It was about character as much as baseball.

    Reply
  • Mark P. Vollmar

    Being from the Toledo, OH, area, I used to go see the Tigers when they played the Mud Hens in exhibition games every year. One of my most vivid memories is of a Tiger coach batting balls to the right field corner and #6 fielding the balls and whirling and throwing, without looking first, several one hop bullets to 2nd base. It was almost like magic to a ten year old.

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  • Jeff Eberts

    I heard that he used to set a tire on home plate and practice throws, from right-field,until he got ten in a row through the tire. That`s just amazing,,,

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  • Larry A.

    I remember watching this game on TV and especially Kaline breaking his collarbone. I had forgotten that it was a game-saving catch. I was a 7-year-old Yankee fan so I was probably saddened more by the loss than Kaline’s injury. Mickey Mantle missed the game as he was sidelined for an extended period with a pulled thigh muscle. Kaline was a truly great player: 20 straight seasons of 10-plus HRs and a difficult guy to strike out, plus an elite, if not THE elite, outfielder.

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  • Terry Schneider

    I was watching a black and white tv that was more snow than picture on Kelleys Island when I saw Al make that catch. I was ten and an Indians fan but Al became my hero that day. I remember practicing that catch over and over in the back yard. God’s peace Mr. Tiger

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  • Mike Martindale

    I was an 11-year/old paperboy in Grand Rapids and would read the sports section before doing my delivery route. I was stunned by photos of that catch and my crumpled hero on the ground. Papers were late that morning.

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  • Mark Goldberg

    Thanks for bringing this article back in ’21. I remember the game well; Hank Aguirre, normally a reliever, made the start and threw a complete game. He went on to go 16-8 with a league-leading 2.21 ERA in ’62; I have no idea what his spin rate was, and I don’t care.

    Reply
  • Russell Rokanas

    AL Kaline was the greatest American league right fielder of the 20th century the other one was in the national league and that was the great one Roberto Clemente also in 1973 AL Kaline won the Roberto Clemente award they were both great players and also great men off the field as well

    Reply

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