Fifty-five years ago, Al Kaline graduated from high school in Baltimore, Maryland and headed straight to Detroit to play for the Tigers. That was in 1953 — and Mr. Kaline’s affiliation with the team has never missed a beat.
In today’s game, it’s hard to imagine a player staying with one team throughout his playing career let alone after his retirement. Mr. Kaline’s longevity is a feat no other Tiger has ever accomplished. Not Ty Cobb. Not Harry Heilmann. Not Charlie Gehringer. Not Hank Greenberg. Not George Kell. Not Willie Horton. Nope. Al Kaline is in a league of his own in this department.
Alan Trammell often said it was his dream to finish his baseball career with the Detroit Tigers. While he was able to finish his playing days with the team, he has coached for other franchises since leaving Detroit and now works for the Chicago Cubs.
Hometown hero Kirk Gibson didn’t even make it through the 1980s before departing for Los Angeles. Now he’s a coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Cobb finished his playing career with the Philadelphia Athletics. Although he served as the Tigers’ player-manager before departing, he had very little to do with the Tigs once he hung up his spikes.
Greenberg was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates after a misunderstanding by team owner Walter O. Briggs who saw a photograph of Hammerin’ Hank wearing a New York Yankees uniform.
Kell served as an announcer for the Tigers for many years, but came to Detroit from the Boston Red Sox.
Gehringer ended up in the Tigers’ front offices as General Manager from 1951-53 after a stint in the United States Navy and then as an automotive supplier. But he never really took to being in baseball management.
It’s great to see Al Kaline getting the respect and recognition he deserves after 55 years of devotion to the Tigers and the city of Detroit. The amazing thing is he’s still relatively young (74) and in good health. It’s quite possible Kaline’s team affiliation could reach the 75 year mark someday — a feat no one else will ever approach.