As somebody who made his Major League debut at age 18 and won the American League batting title two years later, Al Kaline had a head start on generating career highlights.
The popular Detroit Tigers right fielder, who passed away last year, overcame a deformed left foot to build a Hall of Fame career and delight fans for decades.
With Sunday being the 87th anniversary of Kaline’s birth, here is a sampling of the top 10 moments from his career:
1. The warrior rises again
Oct. 7, 1968
Trailing the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, 3 games to 1, the Tigers appeared on the brink of elimination as they trailed, 3-2, in the seventh inning of Game 5. Kaline did what all-time greats do, slapping a two-run single that enabled Detroit to prevail, extend the Series and ultimately win it. For the Series, Kaline batted .379 with two home runs and eight RBIs in seven games.
2. So young, so talented
Sept. 25, 1955
Two years after the Tigers signed him as a “bonus baby,” Kaline played his first full big league season and captured the AL batting title. He was the first 20-year-old to earn that distinction since Tigers legend Ty Cobb accomplished the feat in 1907.
3. A distinct honor
When Major League Baseball renamed what in essence was its Man of the Year award in honor of the late Roberto Clemente, the initial recipient was Kaline. He was selected because he “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.”
4. Leading the postseason drive
Oct. 2-3, 1972
Trailing the Red Sox by a half-game in the AL East standings before a season-ending series against them, the Tigers relied on Kaline, who hit .625 (5-for-8) with three runs in two games to help Detroit win the division title.
5. A memorable farewell
Sept. 24, 1974
Kaline became the 12th player in MLB history to ascend to the 3,000-hit plateau, when he hit a double off Baltimore’s Dave McNally. After reaching the milestone, he announced that he would retire.
A first-ballot inductee into Cooperstown, Kaline was named on 340 of 385 ballots (88.3 percent).
“I owe everything to baseball,” Kaline said in a quotation on his Hall of Fame web page. “Without it, I’d probably be a bum.”
7. All that glitters is gold
Kaline won 10 Gold Glove awards for defensive excellence. Though his excellence transcended mere statistics, he led the AL in outfield assists with 18 in 1956 and again in ’58 with 23.
8. Fast start, then frustration
Kaline was fabulous at the start of the 1962 season, batting .345 with 13 home runs and 38 RBIs in 35 games. He ended up missing 57 games due to a broken collarbone he sustained on May 26 while making a game-ending catch on a ball hit by the Yankees’ Elston Howard. When healthy in 1962, Kaline hit 29 home runs and drove in 94 runs in only 100 games.
9. A slugger shows up, part 1
April 17, 1955
Kaline hit “only” 27 home runs in 1955, but managed to go deep twice in one inning against Kansas City. In the sixth, he took both Bob Spicer and Bob Trice deep.
10. A slugger shows up, part 2
April 17, 1955
That twosome of taters made Kaline the third-youngest player to slam three homers in a game. He began his big night with a third-inning drive off Johnny Gray.