Every time the Detroit Tigers travel to Baltimore, Al Kaline, one of both the franchise’s and the city of Baltimore’s most famous sons, makes the trip with them.
The Hall of Fame outfielder-first baseman said before Thursday’s game that he’s glad the Orioles are back on the upswing, giving him the opportunity to take in the first playoff series between them and the Tigers.
“It’s great to see Baltimore playing well again, and really being a really good team like they were back when I played, with all the great players that they had,” Kaline said. “It’s great to see the fans coming out and supporting the team, and hopefully it’s a really good playoff.”
Kaline signed with the Tigers in 1953 and played 22 seasons for the club, appearing in 18 All-Star Games and hitting .297 with 399 career home runs.
He’s currently a special assistant to Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski, and said that much like the Tigers, who endured some lean years before a recent stretch that’s seen them make one World Series and three American League Championship Series in the last three years, the Orioles are poised to improve.
“I see the Orioles still getting better and better every year,” Kaline said.
As for the series, Kaline believes both lineups can do damage.
“I look for the series to be a fairly high-scoring series,” Kaline said. “I’m not talking about 10 runs — I’m talking six, seven winning the game, because both lineups are very good.”
The trips to Baltimore are one Kaline said he frequently makes, given his and his wife of 60 years next month, Madge Louise Hamilton, both have roots in the area.
The two met at Southern High School, and while his wife still has family living in the area, Kaline uses the trips back to connect with old friends and reminisce on his younger days.
Kaline was able to speak with the best man in his wedding, Dick Walega, for the first time in years. During a front office dinner at McCormick & Schmick’s on the eve of the series, Kaline serenaded them with the Southern fight song.
“I can’t remember what I did yesterday, but I can remember my high school’s song,” Kaline said.