Al Kaline racked up more than 3,000 hits over his 22-year career

By Gabrielle Chung
April 06, 2020 06:44 PM
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Credit: Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

Al Kaline — the baseball legend who played for the Detroit Tigers for the entirety of his 22-year career, earning him the nickname “Mr. Tiger” — has passed away at the age of 85.

Kaline died on Monday afternoon at his home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, according to the Detroit Free Press.

His cause of death was not released, though a family friend told Detroit News that Kaline had recently suffered a stroke.

“It’s with a heavy heart that the Detroit Tigers confirm Al Kaline has passed away at the age of 85. One of the most distinguished and decorated players in the history of baseball, ‘Mr. Tiger’ was one of the greatest to ever wear the Olde English ‘D,'” a statement from the Detroit Tigers, obtained by PEOPLE, read. “The Hall of Famer has been a pillar of our organization for 67 years, beginning with his Major League debut in 1953 and continuing to present in his duties as Special Assistant to the General Manager. Our thoughts are with Mr. Kaline’s wife, Louise, and family now, and forever.”

Al Kaline
| Credit: Mark Cunningham/Getty Images

Tigers chairman and CEO Christopher Ilitch added in a statement of his own, “Baseball lost a titan today. Anyone who knew Al Kaline would describe his gentle soul and passion for baseball as an unbelievably powerful combination, making him one of the most respected players in Major League Baseball history.”

“His dedication to Detroit was unparalleled and he was affectionately known as ‘Mr. Tiger’. His positive contributions to the sport will forever be realized by baseball fans everywhere. The impact of his life is wide-reaching, and he will be greatly missed by millions in Detroit, the state of Michigan and across the baseball community.”

Born and raised in Baltimore, Kaline signed on with the Detroit Tigers in 1953 as a “bonus baby” straight out of high school. In 1955, at the age of 20, he became the youngest player ever to win an American League batting championship.

From there, he went on to help the Tigers win the 1968 World Series, hitting .379 with two home runs and eight RBI in seven games to beat the St. Louis Cardinals.

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Kaline retired in 1974 shortly after recording his 3,000th hit. He finished his career with 3,007 hits, 399 home runs, 498 doubles, 75 triples and 1,582 RBIs — all of which were done while playing with the Tigers.

However, Kaline wouldn’t stay away from the Tigers for very long. Following his retirement, he joined the Tigers’ television team as a color commentator and also worked as a front office official for the team.

Kaline was entered into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980 — the first year he was eligible for the honor. That same year, he became the first Tiger to have his number — No. 6 — retired by the team.

“I was fortunate enough to spend my entire 22 years in a Tiger uniform. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way,” he said in his Hall of Fame induction speech. “If there’s one accomplishment I am particular proud, it is that I’ve always served baseball to the best of my ability.”