Hall of Famer Al Kaline holds the record for most home runs in a Tigers uniform, with 399. Miguel Cabrera, who enters this season with 308 round-trippers in his nine seasons in Detroit, seems likely to break the mark, barring injury.
Kaline wore the old English “D” for 22 years. Here, then, is a nostalgic look at Mr. Tiger’s dingers.
First home run
His first blast came at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium on September 26, 1953, when he was only 18 years old. It was a solo ninth-inning blast off Dave Hoskins, making the score 12-2 in favor of the Indians. Kaline hit only one homer in 30 games that summer.
First homer at Briggs Stadium
It was not until July 30, 1954, that Kaline hit his first home run at Michigan and Trumbull, a three-run shot off Boston’s Tom Hurd.
Home runs against Hall of Famers
All told, 215 hurlers served up gopher balls to Kaline, including eleven Hall of Famers. They are Bob Feller (1), Whitey Ford (3), Catfish Hunter (3), Fergie Jenkins (2), Tommy Lasorda (1), Bob Lemon (1), Jim Palmer (2), Gaylord Perry (1), Robin Roberts (1), Hoyt Wilhelm (4), and Early Wynn (1).
Kaline’s most popular victim
The pitcher that gave up the most bombs to Kaline was left-hander Jim Kaat. Kaline went deep off him 10 times.
Home runs on the road and at home
At home, Kaline hit 226 home runs, with 173 coming on the road. He hit home runs in 17 different stadiums. His preferred road locale was Fenway Park, where he totaled 30.
The only places he didn’t homer
The only stadiums he played in, and failed to hit a home run, were Royals Stadium (8 games played), Shea Stadium (9 games), Sick’s Stadium in Seattle (5 games) and the old Busch Stadium (formerly Sportsman’s Park) in St. Louis (3 games).
Other home run splits
The Boston Red Sox were one of Kaline’s favorite victims, as he numbered 62 homers off them, the most against any club.
He homered 270 times off right-handers, 129 times off southpaws.
Kaline batted third more than any other place in the order throughout his career. That enabled him to hit 74 homers in the first inning, the most of any frame.
Clutch home runs by Kaline
He hit them when they counted. Of his home runs, 186 (47%) either tied the game or put the Tigers ahead.
Six of his home runs were of the walk-off variety, including shots off Jim Bouton and Frank Tanana.
Seven came in extra innings.
Running hard all the way
He hit two inside-the-park jobs: July 31, 1959 at Briggs Stadium, and September 30, 1964 at Yankee Stadium (first game of a doubleheader).
Home runs in bunches
He had 352 one-homer games, and 22 two-homer games. He homered three times in a game once, on April 17, 1955 against the Kansas City Athletics at Briggs Stadium. All three came off different pitchers (Johnny Gray, Bob Spicer, and Bob “Once, Twice” Trice).
Coming through in the pinch
Kaline hit pinch-homers on two occasions: May 19, 1968, off Steve Jones in game two of a doubleheader in the nation’s capital, and June 25, 1971 in Detroit against the Indians’ Phil Hennigan.
Final home runs and the chase for 400
His final home run at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull came on September 14, 1974. It was a solo shot off his former teammate, Pat Dobson, then pitching for the Yankees. About 12,000 fans witnessed the Saturday afternoon affair.
Four days later, Kaline drove a ninth-inning pitch from Reggie Cleveland into the seats at Fenway Park for home run number 399. It scored Gary Sutherland to make the game 8-5 Boston, but Ben Oglivie struck out to end the affair. Mr. Tiger played 12 more games that season, collecting 11 hits in 43 at-bats, but failed to hit the magic number 400.
Kaline and Aaron in Home Run Derby
In 1959, Kaline filmed the television show Home Run Derby in a matchup with Milwaukee Braves’ slugger Hank Aaron. The series was taped at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. Kaline lost the 5-1 and received $1,000 for his appearance. Here’s the full video of that show from YouTube: