Calcaterra: My favorite player, Al Kaline

From Craig Calcaterra at The National Pastime Museum on March 23, 2015:

I was born on July 14, 1973. Al Kaline’s last game as a Major Leaguer came on October 2, 1974. While it’s possible that I sat in a bassinet as Ernie Harwell’s voice could be heard giving the play-by-play in the background some time in those 14 and a half intervening months, I never once saw Kaline play a Major League game. So how on earth could he be my favorite player?

Maybe it’s just as unlikely as Kaline turning into a sports superstar despite suffering from disease and deformity. When he was eight years old, Kaline developed osteomyelitis, an infection which necessitated the removal of a bone in his left foot. The condition plagued him until someone thought to recommend corrective shoes. By that time he had already been in the Major Leagues for over a decade. Osteomyelitis didn’t deter the young Kaline, however. He learned to run on the side of his foot and became a three-sport star athlete at Southern High School in Baltimore despite the pain and discomfort.

Kaline focused on baseball after a cheekbone injury knocked him out of football. He easily could’ve been a pitcher. His father, a former semipro ballplayer, taught his son four different pitches by the time Al was nine years old. When Al went out for the team his freshman year, however, the pitching staff was already loaded, so Kaline moved to the outfield. It was a good move. He made the varsity team as a freshman and never looked back, hitting over .400 in three of his four years and turning the heads of scouts from around the nation.

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Originally published: March 24, 2015. Last Updated: March 24, 2015.