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Al Kaline: The Biography of a Tigers Icon Hardcover – April 1, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

No one, with the possible exceptions of Hall of Famer Ty Cobb and recently deceased announcer Ernie Harwell—who contributes the foreword to this book—is more closely associated with the Detroit Tigers than Al Kaline. In 1955, he was the youngest player at the age of 20 ever to win an American League batting title. Subsequently he won 10 Gold Gloves for his right-field play, played in 18 All-Star games, banged out more than 3,000 hits, and was still a star when the Tigers won the World Series in 1968. His accomplishments were perhaps best summarized by his being only the tenth player elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. After his retirement, Kaline worked as a Tiger broadcaster for almost 30 years. Hawkins, who has covered the Tiger beat since 1970 for various newspapers, relates Kaline’s youth as the child of supportive, working-class parents. There are anecdotes illuminating Kaline’s playing career that include his disappointments and, of course, his triumphs, culminating in the ’68 Series win. If Kaline had a fault, it was that he played in the same era as Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, and Roberto Clemente—it’s hard to get national ink with those guys as your contemporaries. This biography will be in great demand in Michigan, but it should also be read by fans interested in gaining some perspective on one of baseball’s greatest yet most underappreciated players. --Wes Lukowsky

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.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Triumph Books; 1st edition (April 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1600783147
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600783142
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,078,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Where were you one week after your high school graduation? Future Detroit Tiger Hall Of Famer Al Kaline was playing the first of what would eventually be 2,834 Major League games of which *ALL* were with the Detroit Tigers. No Tiger has ever played more games before or since. (And that includes the legendary Ty Cobb who holds the record for the highest lifetime batting average in Major League history.) His career statistics will continue to speak loudly for this ever humble low-key icon. 3,007 hits... 399 home runs... 1,583 runs batted in... 1,622 runs scored... 10 gold gloves as the best fielding right fielder in the American League... 15 All Star games... and in 1955 he became the youngest batting champion in league history when he hit 340 three months before his twenty-first birthday.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
I know, it seems like a contradiction. I rate this as a must have and a must read, but then give it a fair rating. Let me explain.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Kaline deserves a more complete, more thorough examination of his career. The book lacks in a couple of areas. Most notably is in the depth of its dive into Kaline's life. Other than exploring his childhood growing up in poverty in Baltimore and a brief sketch of his sandlot days, the rest of the book reads like a Kaline-centric history of the Tigers from 1953 to 1974. Author Jim Hawkins briefly covers Al's post-player life and focuses on his time in the broadcast booth, but doesn't reveal much other than to say Kaline wasn't outwardly comfortable when he started that gig - no funny anecodotes or details to that time of his life.

I think part of the problem is that Hawkins is a long time newspaper writer and this book - especially early on - reads like an extended newspaper feature that you would see in the Sunday paper. Paragraphs that are one sentence. Chapters that repeat info from the previous chapter (I think I read six times that Kaline's dad worked in a broom factory, for example).

There's also some editing that could've been done. The most egregious of the newspaper like chapter's is the first one and we are given this one sentence paragraph about Willie Horton on page four "Leave it to Horton who, like Kaline, has grown more eloquent with age, to put the career of the Greatest Living Tiger into perspective." That reads like a sentence that was added in to make sure the columns were filled. Completely empty and hollow. We also get statements of the obvious, like when discussing how many games Kaline missed over the course of his career, Hawkins writes the missed time was "more often than not because of one injury or another."

The book also suffers from some fact checking issues, which is a pet peeve of mine. There are a handful of errors.
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