2018-05-10 / Sports

Kaline and the Tigers play in Augusta

Baseball’s Best
By LAMAR GARRARD Baseball historian


AL KALINE AL KALINE “It hurt me a great deal. It put lot of pressure on me. Writers throughout the league starting comparing me to Ty Cobb.” – Hall of Fame outfielder Al Kaline

Ty Cobb and Al Kaline have many things in common when it comes to baseball and one is that they both played 22 years for the Detroit Tigers. It was Ka­line’s only big league team and of course Cobb finished his career with the Athletics.

April 11, 1957, was a memo­rable day for me and my team­mates on the Tubman Junior High School championship baseball team. Our coach, Carlos “Mutt” Bearden treated us to a major league spring training game be­tween the Tigers and the Pirates at Augusta’s Jennings Stadium. The excitement level ran high among us as everyone was eagerly want­ing to see the Detroit right fielder, and by now All-Star, Al Kaline.

Kaline was a “bonus baby” in the early 1950s when he signed right out of high school. He did not disappoint the scouts, for when we saw him in ’57 he was coming off a teriffic year in ’56 when he produced 27 home runs and a .314 batting average. He was only 22 years old at the time, but I remember seeing him warm­ing up and how he fielded the ball very cleanly and had a rifle straight shot arm when throwing to the infield. He had a lot of ter­ritory to cover that day as the old city stadium had a very large out­field.

Detroit started an ex-Augusta Tiger pitcher, Don Lee, who was trying to make the majors.

He did later become a veteran of the big leagues, but on this particular day in a spring training runaway effort, he lost to the Pi­rates 10-2.

There were many stars on the field for both teams that day. Detroit featured Harvey Kuenn, Charlie Maxwell, Frank Bolling, and Ray Boone. Boone’s son and grandsons played in the majors and Aaron Boone is now the N.Y. Yankees manager. Jim Bunning, Hall of Fame pitcher, and Frank Lary were two of their big gun pitchers.

Pittsburgh had a not-so-well- known-at-the-time outfielder Ro­berto Clemente and future 1960s World Series hero, Bill Mazeros­ki, along with Dick Groat, (Duke University All-American), Bill Virdon, and pitchers Bob Friend, Roy Face. and Vern Law.

It does not matter to me now that I do not remember too many details of this contest where we were admitted for a $1.25 gen­eral admission ticket. The thing that sticks out to me most is that our little group of “boys of sum­mer” were having the time of our lives to witness in person so many of our diamond heroes that we southerners could only read about in the print media, or listen to on the radio, or if lucky catch a game of the week on the snowy black and white televisions of the day.

Al Kaline had a remarkable career and landed in the Hall of Fame with his 399 home runs and a .297 lifetime batting average. I smile when I think about that day with my pals and how much fun we all had.

Thanks Mr. Kaline for stopping by the iconic Jennings Stadium in the summer of ’57.

Bring me some peanuts!

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