Wednesday, June 15, 2016

#20 Al Kaline - Detroit Tigers

Albert William Kaline
Detroit Tigers

Bats:  Right  Throws:  Right  Height:  6'1"  Weight:  175
Born:  December 19, 1934, Baltimore, MD
Signed:  Signed by the Detroit Tigers as an amateur free agent in 1953
Major League Teams:  Detroit Tigers 1953-1974
Hall of Fame Induction:  1980

Al Kaline, "Mr. Tiger," became the regular right fielder for the Tigers in 1954 at the age of 19.  He'd stay with the franchise for parts of three decades, eventually retiring at the age of 39 following the 1974 season.  At just 20 years old in 1955, Kaline led the American League in hitting with a .340 average becoming the youngest player to accomplish that feat.  He'd finish his impressive career with 15 All-Star Game selections, 10 Gold Gloves, a .297 lifetime average, 399 home runs and 1,582 RBIs.  His ability to serve as the Tigers' designated hitter in 1974 allowed him to achieve the 3,000 hit plateau, and he'd retire with 3,007 career hits.

Kaline helped lead the Tigers to a World Series title in 1968 and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980.

Building the Set
December 25, 1995 from San Diego, CA - Card #142
Kaline wasn't really on my radar growing up, and the first time I became aware of him was because he was a favorite of Thomas Magnum, the title character in the amazing Magnum P.I. television show.  In one of my favorite episodes from the series, the season eight premier episode, Magnum's friend Rick brings him a 1954 Topps Kaline rookie card in an effort to reach a comatose Magnum.

That episode aired in October 1987, and this 1956 Topps Kaline card entered my collection eight years later as a Christmas present from my parents.  I was a senior in college in 1995, and my records show that this is the one and only 1956 Topps card we added to our set that year.  The last cards added to set before I received this Kaline card were the cards I received from my parents for Christmas in 1994.  Such was life for a college junior/senior where there were bigger fish to fry (and bills to pay) in lieu of obtaining vintage baseball cards.

As was the norm for big ticket purchases, Dad purchased this card from Kit Young Cards in San Diego and he paid $60 for it.

Christmas 1995 with my sister Carol

The Card
This is Kaline's third Topps card, all of which use the same portrait photo.  In the action photo, it looks as if Kaline just misses tripping on a glove and a bat as he crosses home plate.

The back of the card references Kaline's status as a bonus baby, meaning the amount the Tigers paid to sign him was high enough that they had to keep him in the majors rather than send him directly to the minors.  Evidently, the Topps artist felt that Kaline would have bought some weird truck/tank combo vehicle with his bonus money.  His two home runs in one inning feat came on April 17, 1955 against the Athletics in the sixth inning.

1956 Season
At just 21 years old, Kaline was already the Tigers franchise player.  Sharing starting outfield duties with left fielder Jim Delsing (#338) and center fielder Bill Tuttle (#203), Kaline started all but three games for the Tigers in right field.  He was named to his second All-Star team and hit .314 with 27 home runs and 128 RBIs.  His outstanding season helped him to finish third in the American League MVP voting behind Yogi Berra (#110) and triple crown winner Mickey Mantle (#135).

1954 Topps #201
1974 Topps #215
1975 Topps #4
2016 Topps Archives #304
Other Notable Baseball Cards
First Mainstream Card:  1954 Topps #201
First Topps Card:  1954 Topps #201
Last Topps Card (as a player):  1974 Topps #215
Most Recent Topps Card (post-career):  1975 Topps #4
Most Recent Mainstream Card:  2016 Topps Archives #304 SP

Kaline received a card in the 1975 Topps highlights subset, celebrating his 3,000th hit.  His final base card as a player appears within the 1974 Topps set.

1,548 - Kaline non-parallel baseball cards in the Beckett online database as of 6/14/16

Baseball Reference
Beckett Database
National Baseball Hall of Fame
The Trading Card Database

In some cases, the first and last cards listed above are subjective and chosen by me if multiple cards were released within the same year.  Most recent mainstream card may also be subjective and does not include extremely low serial numbered cards, buybacks or cut autograph cards.


  1. Beautiful card. The colors really pop off on your copy. I hope to add this card to my collection in the next year or so.

  2. The vehicle is an armored car. They saw extensive use between WWI and the end of WWII, but they were already an anachronism by 1956. Light tanks and APCs replaced them.

    Anyway, congrats on getting a white back. Maybe I've just had bad timing, but I've never been able to find many of Kaline, and the ones I have found have commanded a greater premium that white backs of even other HOFers. I settled for a gray back.

  3. Thanks guys. We honestly didn't realize the white backs sold for a premium when we were putting together the set. It was always just dumb luck when we ended up with a white backed card. (And good to know that the vehicle is an armored card - makes more sense now!)