Hall-of-Famer Al Kaline draws a crowd at Dodd Stadium
By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Norwich - posted Tue., Aug. 9, 2011
“Mr. Tiger” Al Kaline, Hall of Fame ballplayer for Detroit, said he hoped at least some people would show up for his special day at Dodd Stadium. “I know I’m in a foreign country here with the Red Sox and the Yankee [fans],” he said.
He needn’t have worried. The line of fans who braved a summer shower waiting for Kaline’s autograph snaked down the length of Dodd Stadium’s concourse, and then doubled back again.
Carrying baseballs, bats, uniform shirts and pictures for Kaline to sign, an estimated 1,000 admirers – many wearing Detroit caps – stood in line for more than an hour. When the baseball legend was finally called away to throw the game’s first pitch, those left waiting were given tickets to a future Connecticut Tigers game to assuage their disappointment.
Rodney Pelletier of Cromwell and his son, Matt, came toting some fine art – a pencil drawing of Kaline, in vintage baseball-card style, done by Matt, an art teacher, as a gift for his dad’s birthday in May. “I was born in Michigan. My dad was a Detroit fan,” said Rodney. “It was hard to get [Matt] to be one, but we worked on it and we did it.” Rodney grew up watching Kaline play on television. Kaline and his Tigers won the World Series in 1968, the year Pelletier graduated from high school.
Kaline came to Dodd to throw the game’s first pitch to his grandson, Colin Kaline, who is in his first year playing second base for the Connecticut Tigers, Detroit’s Class A short-season minor league affiliate. Because the elder Kaline works as an advisor in the Tigers’ front office, he was the one who called his grandson with the news that he’d been drafted by the hometown team. “His heart for the game is unparalleled,” Al Kaline said of Colin. “He’s just a little guy… [but] he’s a smart player. I’m very proud of him.”
Al Kaline said that Colin tends to go to his father, Michael Kaline, for advice on his game. Michael played baseball for Miami University of Ohio.
But Grandpa has offered Colin some words of wisdom, too. “Don’t let anybody outwork you. Learn the game, be a good teammate. If you’ve got talent, it will come out,” Al said.
While Colin grew up in Detroit with a name that’s practically local royalty, he said he has deflected any pressure he might have felt to be “the new Al Kaline.”
“You’re always going to be judged. There’s always going to be critics,” Colin said. But, he added, “I’m a completely different person. I’m an infielder. I’m a smaller guy… he’s made sure I stay my own person.”
Recalling trips to Tigers games in Toronto with his grandfather, who for years worked as a Tigers broadcast commentator, Colin said the pair’s relationship has deepened with age. “He’s always been so receptive, especially as I grew older,” he said. He called the elder Kaline “a great resource.”
Al Kaline played ball with the Tigers from 1953 through 1975. During that time he logged 3,007 hits and 399 home runs. He was named to 18 All-Star rosters and won the Golden Glove Award 10 times. After his playing career ended, he spent 26 seasons as a Tigers broadcaster. He’s now in his 55th year with the Tigers organization as a special assistant to senior management.