60 years ago today, one of the best AL players of his generation debuted ? Al Kaline. One of the few people to play for 20 seasons and never change franchises, for a generation of fans, Al Kaline became synonymous with the Tigers.
His debut on June 25, 1953 came under somewhat coerced reasons. You see, he was a very green 18-year-old who had just graduated from high school earlier the month and signed with the Tigers for the then-princely sum of $35,000 less than a week earlier.
By rules at the time, that $35,000 signing made Kaline a “bonus baby,” and baseball had its Bonus Rule back in those days. The rule stated that all amateurs signed for more than $4,000, the team would have to keep the player on the 25-man roster for two full seasons.
Kaline did not play much his first year. The next year he became the starting right fielder, a slot he’d fill for the next two decades. Kaline wasn’t that good in as a 19-year-old in 1954, but again — he was only on the roster because of the Bonus Rule’s two year stipulation.
Things changed completely in 1955. He had a hot start, hitting over .400 well into May. By the time the two-year limit had been reached and he could be sent to the minors, there was no reason to do so. Thus Kaline became one of the only players in modern times to never play in the minors. He ended 1955 with a league best .340 batting average for manager Bucky Harris and the Tigers. And the rest is history.
For the full article, see Chris Jaffe, “60th anniversary: Al Kaline debuts”, The Hardball Times, June 25, 2013