Al Kaline’s phantom 400th home run

No other sport loves numbers like baseball.

Even numbers are the most heralded: a .300 hitter, 20 victories, 100 runs batted in, 3,000 hits and 300 wins. Home runs are the king of baseball stats, look no further than Babe Ruth to see that. 500 homers, 600 homers, 700 homers, the Bambino reached them all.

For many years 500 home runs was an automatic ticket to the Hall of Fame. For decades the 500-homer club was an exclusive group of baseball’s greatest sluggers: the Babe, Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Ted Williams. Then, in the 1960s the club welcomed Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.

As a contemporary of those 1960s sluggers, Al Kaline was a fine home run hitter as well. But when he hung up his spikes after the 1974 season, Kaline was stuck on a very uneven – and unglamorous – number. 399, as in 399 career home runs. But had it not been for some bad luck, “The Line” would have ended his career with 400 homers, making him one of the few to have reached that mark at the time of his retirement.

Kaline wasn’t a pure slugger like Mantle or Mays. He was a great hitter with quick wrists and a fine eye. He was good for 20-25 homers per season and a .300 average was virtually guaranteed. He was more Joe DiMaggio than he was Mantle. A graceful right-handed swinger with no weaknesses on a baseball diamond.

Twice in his career, Kaline lost home runs that would have given him 400. On June 1, 1958, the 23-year old right fielder belted a home run off Ray Moore of the White Sox to lead off the second inning. The Tigers were leading the game two innings later when rain started to fall. After a 45-minute delay, the game was called. Kaline’s home run, as well as every other event of the contest, was erased. As far as Major League Baseball was concerned, it never happened.

Five years later the Tigers were playing the Senators in a doubleheader when Kaline smacked a homer off Bennie Daniels in the second inning of the first game, sending the ball into the bullpen at D.C. Stadium. In the bottom of the inning, after a rain delay of one hour and 12 minutes, umpires called the game and cancelled the second as well. Kaline again had a home run washed out.

Of course many players have lost home runs to rained out games, but in Kaline’s case it was a particular shame because the legend finished his career on 399. It just doesn’t seem to look right on his stat sheet. One more would have given him a nice round number. Which is exactly what baseball likes.

9 replies on “Al Kaline’s phantom 400th home run

  • Ron

    I knew about the homerun lost vs. the whitesox in 1958, but not the one against the senators 5 years later.
    The thing is that Kaline would have had many more if he was able to stay healthy during his career. Seems like every year Al was missing 20 to 60 games with an injury. His last year of 150 or more games played was 1961. Only Mantle, and later years Griffey Jr. missed as many or more than the 450 or so games Kaline missed. A big reason for the lack of four or five 30 homer seasons and several more 100 or more runs and rbi seasons when he finished. God Bless Al Kaline for his integrity and loyalty to baseball and our Tigers. 60 years with the team. Major League Baseball and Bud Selig should have the ‘Al Kaline Award’ in his name for the best defensive outfielder every year.
    Dan, thankyou for all your wonderful stories about our Detroit Sports Teams. I look at your fine blog every day. Each of you does a wonderful service for all Detroit teams fans.
    Ron aka KalineCountry

    • Dan Holmes


      Thanks for the kind words about the blog. We all enjoy writing about the great Detroit teams. Even when they aren’t great on the field or the rink or the court, they’re entertaining.

      I agree about Kaline, he is vastly underrated because he frequently missed out on reaching the “magical” numbers of 100 RBI, 200 hits, 30 homers, etc. Plus, he played his prime years in the worst offensive era in baseball history. His average would probably have been 15 points higher had he played in the 1980s and 1990s, and 25-30 points higher in the 1920s and 1930s. Still, a wonderful ballplayer and a fine gentleman.


  • Kevin


    You story reminded me of two additional stories. The first was when Carl Yastrzemski was nearing the end of his career. He hit number 453 against Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, which was pretty neat given that it was the last homer he ever hit. Unfortunately #452 was his last. The homer against Palmer was washed out by rain. The other story involved a game I went to when Kaline was near the end. He hit his second homer of the game in the top of the ninth to tie the score. The Fenway fans (who knew baseball a lot more than the pink hats that attend games now) gave Kaline a standing ovation. The Sox won the game in the bottom of the ninth when Jim Rice, after failing to bunt runners over, hit a three run homer.

    • Dan Holmes

      That’s a great comment! Thanks for sharing. Can you imagine a manager asking his cleanup batter to bunt runners over now?

  • Dan Holmes

    Thanks for reading our blog, John. I was unable to find a washed out HR for Kaline in 1974. Do you have a date for it?

  • Ted Knack

    I also remember the 1974 lost homer for Kaline. I know it happened because I was listening to the game on the radio as a kid rooting for him to do exactly that. I don’t remember the exact game, but I do know that it was very late in the season – because Ernie Harwell was telling us that Kaline needed only one (or maybe two) more home runs to get to 400. So I would say that it was some game after he hit number 398…. I was so disappointed the next day after that rainout.

  • Timothy Ernest

    Kaline did have 400 home runs actually. He hit one in the world series. That counts with me because it rightly places this humble unselfish player in the ratified air of players who had both 3000 hits and 400 humerus gor a career ” regular season and playoffs combined “

  • J.D. Danielewicz

    I believe the GREAT “6” said if he had it to do over, he would have not retired before hitting #400.

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