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Al Kaline: The Biography of a Tigers Icon Hardcover – April 1, 2010
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About the Author
Jim Hawkins is a journalist who has worked for the Detroit Free Press and later for The Oakland (Michigan) Press. He is the author of seven books, including The Bicycle Book, One in a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story, and Tigers Confidential. Ernie Harwell was the play-by-play announcer for the Detroit Tigers for 42 years.
Top Customer Reviews
There are many plusses and minuses in this book... the positives are presented by the rich detail of Al's childhood (Believe it or not even though Kaline first entered the big leagues over fifty-years ago... this is his first biography.) growing up in Baltimore to very humble parents. His Father worked in a broom factory and his Mother had multiple menial jobs. Despite the need for additional income in the family... they would not allow Al to work. His Dad told him there will be plenty of time throughout the rest of his life to work... he should go ahead and follow his dream... and his passion... playing baseball. That's all Al cared about and that's all he did. Kaline admits to being a lousy student because he believed he'd one day play big league baseball. His teachers believed it also and let him skate by. During the summer Al would play on four to five teams at a time. His Father and his Uncle's would arrange to pick him up from one game and bring him to the next. There were times on a hot sweltering summer day that Al would play in three games in one day. His childhood heroes were Ted Williams and Stan Musial and there are some interesting tidbits regarding Kaline and Williams years later when Al plays in the big leagues.
Highlighted along with his Hall Of Fame statistics is Kaline's innate shyness which at times was taken to be aloofness by the sportswriter's. The constant management changes in Detroit... would result in Kaline playing for fourteen different managers in twenty-two years. His feelings towards each manager are interspersed in the telling of his story. I feel bad having to point out what I feel are the shortcomings in this book since Al Kaline was one of my childhood heroes... and I actually wore an Al Kaline glove in Little League... but the negatives have absolutely nothing to do with Kaline himself. He still remains *FIVE-STAR-AS-A-PLAYER-AND-AS-A-PERSON*... the author has what eventually becomes an annoying habit of constantly repeating the same information over and over again in different parts of the book. Additionally the author may be in the midst of one season's story and then starts talking about another season... and then goes back again to the earlier season... not only within the same chapter... but back and forth in subsequent chapters. It becomes very confusing and at times dulling when you hear the same story again. Here's a couple of examples:
On page 4 and 5 the author quotes manager Charlie Dressen when asked to name the greatest player he had ever managed says: "JACKIE ROBINSON WAS THE MOST EXCITING RUNNER I EVER HAD," DRESSEN DECLARED. "HE COULDN'T BE EQUALED ON THE BASES. HE COULD ROB A TEAM BLIND. PEE WEE REESE WAS THE GUTSIEST LITTLE INFIELDER I EVER HAD. I'D HAVE TO PUT ROY CAMPANELLA IN A CLASS WITH MICKEY COCHRANE, GABBY HARNETT, AND BILL DICKEY. AND HANK AARON IS THE BEST HITTER I EVER HAD. BUT IN MY HEART, I'M CONVINCED KALINE IS THE BEST PLAYER WHO PLAYED FOR ME. FOR ALL-AROUND ABILITY-I MEAN HITTING, FIELDING, RUNNING, AND THROWING-I'LL GO WITH AL." Very fine praise indeed... but the exact same speech in full is on pages 103-104. On page 92-93 the story about the game on May 26, 1962 when Al broke his collarbone on a catch of a ball hit by Elston Howard is told in detail... and the same story is told again on page 120-121. There are numerous other examples of this duplication. Then... really hard to understand is why in Chapter 14 you're told who won the 1968 World Series... the averages in the series of Kaline and Cash... how many RBI's they had... about Lolich's three victories and his winning the World Series MVP... etc. and then chapter 15 tells you about each game of... "you guessed it"... the 1968 World Series.
The only thing I can guess is that this lack of good editing relates to the following: For months this book was presented as being released on April 15, 2010. Then out of nowhere I got an email that it was being shipped on March 29, 2010. I have experienced this "phenomena" before. A book seems to be rushed out ahead of schedule to beat some "new" deadline (Perhaps the baseball season starting this weekend?) and true professional editing is dropped by the wayside.
If you are a fan of Kaline the player, this is a must have and a must read. As much as I appreciated him as a player, I have come to appreciate him more after reading this book. The author takes the reader through Kaline's career, even starting in high school, and one cannot help but see him as one of those rare complete ballplayers. Much of the book is read through quotes of people who knew Kaline through the years, and this really authenticates what people have been saying for years and what his first ballot selection to the Hall of Fame proves - that he's one of the all time greats.
The cover is slick and the printing very readable. There are some excellent pictures in the book - most of which I had never seen. And something else this book covers that is very unusual is that of his salary progression (and negotiations). Quite intriguing to see how it was done before free agency.
Having said all this, I have to include some criticism that is well deserved. The style of writing is amateurish and in some cases reads like a book for elementary school children. The organization is very poor and the editing is terrible. In fact, I wonder if it even had an editor. Another reviewer made a point about identical paragraphs being included in different parts of the book - and this is painfully true. It suggests that the author just kind of threw this book together without any polishing. That makes it a bit of a tedious read at times. Also, this book does not include a statistical table of Kaline's career and it should. This ommission is a terrible failing.
But the greatest shortcoming of this book is it's lack of detail with regards to Kaline's personal life. I'm not looking for salacious tidbits but I'd like to know more about him as a man, other than the fact that he loves to golf. I'd like to know what life was like as a ballplayer in the 50s and 60s. I'd like to know if he had any hobbies or interests other than sports. I'd like to know a bit about his wife and children. In short, I want to know what he thought about 'things'. In a biography, I do not think that is asking too much.
This book falls short and that's a shame. I suspect that Kaline was/is a great guy but you'd never know it by reading this book. Still, it's a buy.
I will add that there is a book out called 'Six'. It is published through Olympia Entertainment. It is more of a pictorial history of Kaline and offers a bit more into his life, though not much. It's really a magnificent book and though it sells for something like $30 unsigned, most of the signed copies I see for sale (like through the Detroit Tigers site) are $75 plus shipping. You really have to be a fan to pay that amount.
And a final comment which is a bit off subject but which I feel compelled to note. Kaline married his high school sweetheart at the age of 19. He's been married to her ever since. And though I'd like to believe that it was a faithful and happy marriage (and the books I have read allude to this), it certainly could not hurt that Al was married to a woman who was truly extraordinarily beautiful. I don't think I have ever known or seen a woman who has retained such an exquisite beauty, even into her 70s. I guess it's all in the genes.