Sunday, October 26, 2014
#30 Albert William Kaline, Mr Tiger
Al Kaline was a genuinely great player and Topps subtly acknowledge this with his card number.
During the 60's (and perhaps late 50's) Topps began posting the most notable players in the league that season in 5's and 10's and the most prominent players on 100's. You can see the pattern. The three base cards featuring hall of famers to this point are #5 Ford, #20 Cepeda and now #30 Kaline. # 10 Matty Alou, #15 Earl Battey and #25 Elston Howard each were prominent players as well. Topps, as far as I can recall kept this trend going well into the 1990's. It helps fans to remember the card numbers to chase and Kaline's was a card worth chasing for any baseball fan.
Kaline up to 1967 was on track to a similar career as Ernie Banks in terms of ever reaching a World Series. It's not like the Tigers were a bad team either. They won 101 games in '61 but they couldn't catch the Yankees who were still a powerhouse in the American League. The Tigers throughout much of the decade were battling the White Sox, Yankees and Twins for tops in the AL. This trend began to change for them in 1967 when they finished tied with the Twins who were both a game behind the Red Sox. Their fan's misery was far more short lived than either team when the Tigers turned around and won the last classic league pennant (playoffs started the following season) and stormed past the Cardinals for the World Title. Kaline rose to the post season challenge. Batting .379 in the series.
I was never a Tigers fan and frankly never liked his baseball card from this set but as I became more and more of a fan of the game, Kaline is on the list of players I wish I could have seen play.
He earned just over 3000 hits in his career which started in 1953 when he was only 18. In 1954, he batted .276 during his first full season in the majors. He wouldn't have that low a batting average again until 1969. That says all you need to about how great a hitter he was.
As I said. I wasn't much of a fan of this or any of the Tigers cards from this set. There is one Tigers card from this set which did cement itself in my memory but I'll save that for when it comes up.
Kaline is clearly pictured posing at a preseason facility. The size of the stands are the give away. Tigers Stadium was walled with double decker seats. Background in this picture shows what is probably a clubhouse behind a fence. This, possibly is the building in the back ground. Joker Marchant Stadium was the Tigers spring home starting in 1966. The colors match.
The picture itself looks real washed out in terms of color. Either there was a drought in Florida during some mid 60's spring or Topps needed to brighten the image somehow to cut down on the shadow over Kaline's face.
Final thing I didn't understand about Kaline's appearance on this card is how much he changed from his rookie card. He looks slender and youthful on his rookie but he definitely does not look like the same person on his '67 card. He put on the weight which, judging from his power numbers and longevity in the league, was all muscle.
His '73 Topps card got a mention in an episode from the Simpons back when the show was new. Bart Simpson said he was looking for a Al Kaline card, "the one with his sideburns"