Detroit Tigers honor Al Kaline with memorial before Opening Day at Comerica Park

Evan Petzold
Detroit Free Press

There were no fans to cheer on the Detroit Tigers as players and coaches took the field for the home opener Monday against the Kansas City Royals.

But one man, Al Kaline, was there in spirit.

A white and navy blue "KALINE" recognition flag flew in center field, where it will be seen for the entire season to commemorate him. Kaline died April 6 at 85 years old.

After the starting lineups were introduced, there was a video tribute shown not just on the left field scoreboard, but on Fox Sports Detroit's television coverage.

After that video, a shot of Kaline's family, including his wife, Louise, watching the ceremony via Zoom from Bloomfield Hills, was shown. Then, the team raised the "KALINE" flag. The team then held a moment of silence in his memory.

"Probably the most sincere person you've ever met in your life," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said pregame Monday. "We miss him, miss him walking around the clubhouse. Everyone in the area knows how much he meant."

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The Fox Theatre marquee displays a tribute to Al Kaline before the Detroit Tigers play their season opener against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park Monday, July 27, 2020.

The Tigers are also remembering "Mr. Tiger" on the players' sleeves for all 60 games with a home and road No. 6 uniform patch. The home jersey centerpieces a white number surrounded by a navy blue circle. The road jersey does the same, except with orange trim.

And for Monday's season opener against the Kansas City Royals, base jewels reading "In Loving Memory of Mr. Tiger" will be placed on first, second and third base. The labels feature two No. 6 emblems, Kaline's signature, his date of birth (Dec. 19, 1934) and his date of death (April 6, 2020). 

Detroit Tigers' No. 6 uniform patch to honor Al Kaline during the 2020 season. Home patch, left, road patch, right.

"Always wanted to be around us," Tigers infielder Jordy Mercer said. "I think that was really cool, too. He'd walk down the cage and walk on the field. A very selfless person and always cared about you and the team more than he put on himself."

Kaline made 18 All-Star Games, won 10 Gold Glove awards and helped Detroit win the 1968 World Series in his 22-year career, all with the Tigers — earning his "Mr. Tiger" nickname. He slashed .297/.376/.480 with 3,007 hits, 399 home runs and 1,582 RBIs.

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Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline watches batting practice Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla.

"As great as he was, he was always willing to listen," Tigers outfielder Cameron Maybin said. "He was always open ears. He was always just wondering how the person was. That's what I appreciated about him."

He entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980, and his No. 6 has been retired by the Tigers for nearly 40 years.

During his career, Kaline finished top 10 in American League MVP voting on nine occasions, getting second place to a pair of New York Yankees players — Yogi Berra and Elston Howard — in 1955 and 1963, respectively. "Mr. Tiger" placed third in 1956, behind only Mickey Mantle and Berra.

A young Mark and Mike Kaline with father Al Kaline in 1965.

Kaline debuted for the Tigers at 18 years old in 1953. Two years later, he became the youngest player to win the AL batting title with a .340 average.

In 1973, he secured the Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player who best exemplifies sportsmanship, community outreach and individual contribution to his team.

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Throughout 2,834 career games, Kaline played 2,301 in right field, 489 in center field, 146 at designated hitter, 135 at first place, 17 in left field and two at third base.

Here are images of the flag, uniform patches and base jewels:

Detroit Tigers' flag to honor Al Kaline.
Detroit Tigers' base jewel to honor Al Kaline.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold