One of the biggest differences I have seen in baseball over the last ten years is the failure of outfielders to consistently throw home with speed and accuracy. I know a lot of other people who have made the same observation.
Today it seems that even on lazy fly balls to mid outfield, runners are tagging at third and scoring easily as invariably the ball is thrown up the line, even if it makes it past the pitcher’s mound.
One of my greatest thrills in watching baseball at Tiger Stadium occurred in 1969 in a game against the Orioles. I had the perfect perch to see what happened because I was sitting in an upper deck box seat right over home plate.
A ball was hit to Al Kaline deep in right field as Baltimore’s Paul Blair prepared to tag from third.
Ranked in major league baseball history as having one of the games’ greatest outfield arms, no one was better than Kaline in terms of positioning himself and then rifling the ball in with one powerful, fluid motion.
As Kaline caught the ball, Blair took off from third. But nearly halfway to home he stopped and scrambled back to the bag as Kaline threw a missile to catcher Bill Freehan on the fly. The entire crowd stood as one giving number six a standing ovation.
Now of course not everyone had Kaline’s arm but I can tell you that many outfielders back then could throw accurately to home plate.
Eleven years ago Sport Illustrated ran a piece by Jeff Pearlman called “Launchpad” about outfielders’ arms. In that article, Pearlman quoted an anonymous National League scout:
“Nobody throws well from the outfield these days. Arms are so weak we grade on a curve. Guys who are good, we grade great. Guys who are terrible — they’re still terrible, but there are a lot more of them.”
Pearlman observed that kids simply don’t throw the ball enough when they are growing up. He wrote:
Baseball officials bemoan the American schoolboy’s limited dedication to the simple rites of baseball development—tossing a ball back and forth with a friend, pitching against the garage door.
Recently I had the opportunity to ask Al Kaline why the outfield arms are so weak and inaccurate. Here is his very candid observation:
“The outfielders really need to be practicing making long throws because sometimes you can go several games before you have to make a long or hard throw” said Kaline. “They don’t do it at all. Today the outfielders play long catch before the game, and they work on the outfield walls when they go to another ballpark but they don’t regularly practice throwing home like we did when I played. They just don’t do it. Throwing in game conditions is a lot different then just playing long catch in the outfield. In a game you have to move your feet a lot faster and you don’t have time to set up and throw. Today it seems when they have to do it they are not very accurate with their throws. I don’t know why they don’t practice throwing home at least once every series just to get used to game situations as you possibly can. I don’t think anybody does it anymore,” said the Tiger legend.
I used to love to go to Tiger Stadium for the pregame practice and watch a coach hit fungo fly balls to Kaline, Jim Northrup, Mickey Stanley, and Willie Horton and then see them peg the ball home to Freehan on one hop.
It looks like that ritual stayed at Michigan and Trumbull because apparently at Comerica Park the outfield throwing “practice” is taking place during the game.
What a shame.
24 replies on “Al Kaline tells us why outfielders’ throwing arms are so weak today“
No one did it better than Kaline.
J. Conrad Guest
I grew up watching Kaline patrol right field at Tiger Stadium. In all my years since, I can’t recall a player in any outfield position with a better arm and accuracy. Bobby Higginson, who also played for Detroit, came close.
But if Al says they don’t practice enough, it must be so. Who am I to argue with a Hall of Famer?
I totally agree with Mr. Tiger (Kaline). Being a former player in both baseball as well as softball leagues for many years. Had many coaches chew me out for not throwing to the relay guy. My my best coach (Dad) insisted arm strenth and model what Al Kaline has said and used to do!
I deplore the modern day practice of catching with one hand. Outfielders might be good at catching, but if your throwing hand is down at your side, you waste time by having to raise it, get the ball into your hand, and then throw it. If your throwing hand is on the glove when you catch the ball, then you’ve got a positive grip on the ball, you can just let the ball fall into your throwing hand, and rifle a throw to the nearest base or cutoff player. But no, we’re too flashy and get paid too much to catch like little kids. Even the great Willie Mays used 2 hands when he played. You got 2 hands, use both of them properly.
MR. KALINE IS MY FAVORITE PLAYER OF ALL TIME.
I ONLY HAVE ONE BASEBALL CARD AND IT IS HIS.
HE IS A TRUE GENTLEMAN. I STILL REMEMBER WHEN HE TURNED DOWN A RAISE BECAUSE IT WOULD BE UNFAIR TO THE REST OF THE TEAM. IN HIGH SCHOOL, WHEN HE BROKE HIS COLLAR BONE OUR BIOLOGY TEACHER PROMPTLY DUBBED IT “THE KALINE BONE.”
THE FIRST TIGER GAMES I EVER SAW WERE AT A TWINIGHT DOUBLEHEADER WITH BALTIMORE. KALINE WON THE FIRST GAME IN THE BOTTOM OF THE NINTH WITH A HIT AFTER CONTINUALLY FOULING OFF PITCHES. CASH WAS GAME 2 WITH A HOME RUN IN THE UPPER DECK IN RIGHT.
THAT WAS IN 1961 AND IT IS AS FRESH AS YESTERDAY.
FINALLY, HE IS LOYAL. HE HAS ALWAYS STAYED WITH THE TIGERS.
THANK YOU, MR. KALINE FOR YOUR INTEGRITY AND GRACE.
Oh, the good old days! Today’s players are so spoiled it is disgusting. However, even though they are prima donnas, why don’t the coaches see that they practice throwing the ball?
My first game was the Tigers vs. Yankees in summer of 59. Yankees won the Friday night game 4-2 Mantle hit a HR in the 9th. My favorit player was Kaline my close cousins was Mantle. Not my day that day. But I finally got to Meet Mr. K in spring training of 1967 when I was in the US Air Force and just back from SE Asia. Kaline was walking up to speak to his Wife Louise and his young son Mark during pactice before games started in spring of 67. I asked Kaline how is foot was since I heard he had a problem with it in 66 while I was gone. He said it was fine now. And that was enough to make my year. Thank you for making a young Airmans day way back then Mr K. To this day I still appreciate it.
Al Kaline had a howitzer for a throwing arm. Many time’s, I remember watching him either throw player’s out at the plate or, as in Paul Blair’s case, chase them back to third. Seeing that today is a rarity.
I have always thought an “outfielder arm competiton” during the homerun contest would be interesting. Stand up a box a home plate with a hole through it and ask players to peg balls from the outfield.
Great comments by all. I love the idea of a throwing contest. Imagine back in the day if Kaline, Clemente, Mays and other’s had competed? Awesome! Al Kaline was also my favorite player of all time. I had the privelege of meeting him years ago at a baseball card show and was fortunate enough to get his autograph. I stood in awe as my childhood hero signed a ball and card for me. Class act always. A true hof. I tell young people all the time I grew up in the best era of baseball the 60’s and 70’s although I give my respect to the 50’s also. It’s a shame what the owners and modern players have done to the game so many people dearly love.
From my first game at Briggs Stadium in late July of 1954 as a little boy with dad to see the Tigers vs. his redsox, Al Kaline has been my all-time favorite player. I was captivated from the start watching him in RF with his picture perfect throws to 2nd, 3rd, and home, his graceful elegance and that perfect swing at the plate. There was never a wasted motion with “Big Al”. Years ago he said how, whenever it was possible, he would catch the ball near the right side of his head to get that split second quicker catch and out of the glove throw to nip a runner trying to advance. The American League teams baserunners essentially stopped running on Al’s Strong and Incredibly Accurate Throwing Arm very early in his career. He still would make the throw to the base whether the runner tagged or stayed. This was to let them know he had it all the time. Nearly 20 years ago, at an autograph show I had the chance to meet the great Mickey Mantle. I told Mick that next to Al, he was my second favorite player and what a thrill to see the both of them in the same outfield at many All-Star Games. Mickey said to me that, “when he played, from 1955 to 1968, the best all-around player in the league was Al Kaline”. Praise from the great Mick himself. It is so rare that a player will stay on with a team in so many capacities as Mr. Kaline has. HOF Player, coach, tv/radio announcer, and as a front office executive/adviser to Mr. Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski. 60 years a Tiger. Major League Baseball and bud selig’s office of the commissioner needs to have an award started in Kaline’s name given to the best defensive outfielder every year and name it the Al Kaline Award.
Rick this week I agree with you. Maybe I’m bais growing up in the 60’s and being a young teen in the early 70’s, but the game was so much better then, then what it is now. Managers were better back then too. This crap about pitch count, bringing a pitcher in to pitch to 1 player, you never saw that in the 60’s & 70’s. If the game stays the way it is now, Denny McClain will be the last 30 game winner in MLB baseball ever.
I’ve worn “6” since I was 9 years old in LL, and fashioned every aspect of my game after Al Kaline. Once in high school I had a very sore arm but during BP I made a point of shagging a fly in right-center field and then ripping a one-hopper to 3rd base just to show my arm – no one tested me during the game and it’s a good thing they didn’t cuz I couldn’t have made a throw from shortstop to 2nd base after that :-). Kaline was the best – still is. Long live Mr. Detroit Tiger.
If anyone would know.
Kaline Nuff Said!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Growing up in the ’60s we saw two of the finest rightfielders of all time – Kaline and Clemente, and they both could gun anyone down. Got to say that in the ’70s you could add Dwight Evans of the Red Sox to that list. All three are better than any out there now.
Can’t beat Kaline, but Rocky Calovito had a cannon, too.
I watched Kaline in my youth as a kid growing up in Detroit. I saw no comparable arm, until I moved to Pittsburgh. No discredit to Kaline, but Roberto Clemente was his equal in right field.
Bill, I remember all those long throws in practice too — because, of course, we were often in the park well before batting practice, with guess who?
Kaline was the greatest Tiger ever and his style and class is sorely missed in today’s game! I was at every Sunday game from ’64 – ’68 and especially enjoyed watching AK and Mickey Lolich! Kaline would set himself with his right foot back and catch the ball over his right shoulder so that the catch and throw was all one motion! My junior high coach taught us the same technique! It was pure grace when Kaline did it!!
I remember throwing our arms dam near out of our sockets trying to make those throws.
If Al is so gung ho about this, why isn’t he chewing Dombrowski and Leyland’s ear about it. I believe they would tell him the same thing I just said. It is to much stress on an outfielders arm and over a 162 game season it would lead to many injuries to key players.
How about Willie Horton’s throw to the plate in the 68 WS?
Mark P. Vollmar
How in the world did Al Kaline play over 20 seasons and only receive 10 gold gloves?
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