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Gary Thorne: Baseball star Al Kaline was one of the greats on or off the diamond | READER COMMENTARY

In this Aug. 25, 2002, file photo, Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer and Baltimore native Al Kaline is honored for his 50 years with the Tigers organization at Comerica Park in Detroit. Al Kaline, who spent his entire 22-season Hall of Fame career with the Detroit Tigers and was known affectionately as “Mr. Tiger,” has died.
In this Aug. 25, 2002, file photo, Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer and Baltimore native Al Kaline is honored for his 50 years with the Tigers organization at Comerica Park in Detroit. Al Kaline, who spent his entire 22-season Hall of Fame career with the Detroit Tigers and was known affectionately as “Mr. Tiger,” has died. (JOHN F. MARTIN/AP)

Al Kaline was good people. When good people pass, take a deep breath and realize the magnitude of the loss (“Al Kaline, who starred at Baltimore’s Southern High and became a Hall of Famer with the Tigers, dies at 85,” April 6).

Grace, dignity, compassion, humor, empathy — Al Kaline had those qualities and so many more. All in equal parts, and he was unafraid to show them to all with whom he came in contact. What a joy to be in the presence of Al Kaline.

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He would talk baseball on the field before games. The “then and now” of baseball, the “how and why’s” of baseball, and the art of hitting the baseball which few have ever done better. In the radio booth next door to ours where he was just watching the game, he would cheer when the Tigers scored and be sure to look over and spread his arms as if to say, “Hey, that’s just who we are.”

When the Orioles scored, I made sure to look over and spread my arms. He answered and I’ll leave that to you, but it came with a big smile.

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In any clubhouse, his presence parted the waters. He brought a hush to players seeing him for the first time. He brought a smile and a sense of wow to those who knew him.

The record books and the Hall of Fame will tell the story of his days on the field. The hearts of those who knew him will tell another story. Both will cause you to stand back and take that deep breath.

His wife Louise was his beloved companion for 64 years on their journey and it was a marriage of uncompromising love. To Louise, the family, friends and the Tiger family go our deepest sympathies.

Someday when baseball returns and there is a visit to the home of the Tigers, I will forget for that split second that he is not there. I will wait for the arm around my shoulder, the glorious smile and the “How the heck are you?”

Then I will realize that he is gone and I will be profoundly sad. Again.

Gary Thorne, Sarasota, Florida

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