Over the course of Al Kaline’s legendary 22-year Hall of Fame career with the Detroit Tigers that included the 1968 World Champion becoming the youngest player to win an American League batting title, being selected to 18 All-Star games and winning 10 Gold Glove awards, he had amassed a large collection of game-used memorabilia, autographed baseballs, awards, and photographs.
Now, a year and a half since he died at age 85, his family is selling over 400 treasured items from Kaline’s personal collection through Dallas-based Heritage Auctions’ Nov. 18-20 Fall Sports Collectibles Catalog that can be found at https://sports.ha.com/c/auction-home.zx?saleNo=50049.
Bidding begins Thursday and the auction ends Nov. 20.
Items to be auctioned include his 1968 World Series championship trophy, his home jersey from his final season in 1974, two game-used gloves, several Gold Glove awards and trophies, two home run baseballs, team-signed baseballs, All-Star game bats, signed player contracts and the golf bags and clubs that were his constant companions at Oakland Hills Country Club.
A photo of Ted Williams and Kaline signed to the Tiger that reads, “To Al, A great kid with a terrific future. Good luck, Ted Williams,” will be auctioned as well.
Each item comes with a letter of provenance from his eldest son Mark Kaline, 64, of Bloomfield Hills.
“My dad was good friends with Brooks Robinson, and after he told my dad about his 2015 Heritage auction, he started thinking about what he would do with all his things,” says Kaline, an advertising executive who credits his mother Louise for being the careful curator over the years of all the memorabilia.
“Dad didn’t want all his items being a burden on my mom after he passed, plus he didn’t want there to be problems between family members dividing them up, many of which are one of a kind,” Kaline said. “My brother Mike and my parents’ four grandkids have already been given some special items plus dad really thought it would be nice to give the fans the opportunity to obtain something from his career. Over the years he gave items to people like ushers, bat boys and some friends, so it could have been a lot worse going through things.
“There were a couple of items we wrestled with about selling, such as the 1973 Roberto Clemente Award because dad was the first recipient and he respected him so much.”
Mark Kaline says that discovering and assembling all the different items for the auction house was a little emotional but also illuminating:
“I found his contract from 1955, the year he won the batting title, and it showed that his salary was only $9,000, which I never knew. But it’s the little things that triggered the emotions like finding his Tiger hat that he wore at the last game at Tiger Stadium and the one from the 50th anniversary of the ’68 team that has the initials of teammates who had died or were too ill to be there in person.”
Mark Kaline also told the Free Press the family plans on donating a portion of the proceeds to some of his father’s favorite charities.
According to the Heritage Auctions website, the company founded in 1976 is the “largest collectibles auctioneer and third largest auction house in the world.”
Over the years celebrities including John Wayne, Sylvester Stallone, Stan Musial, Brooks Robinson and Willie McCovey and their families have used Heritage to auction off their personal collections.
“The reason most former players eventually place their items in auction is because it’s the most equitable way to do it for the families because it’s tough to put values on unique items because a lot of it is unknown and it depends what the market bears, “ said Chris Ivey, the founder and director of Heritage’s sports auctions. “You can’t exactly split a championship trophy.
“The Al Kaline collection is so special because he was after all ‘Mr. Tiger’, a Hall of Famer who played his entire career in Detroit and then was with the team as an announcer and advisor for years. The depth of this collection is amazing,” said Ivy who believes the “low estimate for the collection is around $800,000 and that there is a very good chance it will reach seven figures.”
The most expensive piece of game-used memorabilia the company has sold at auction was a 1937 Lou Gehring game-worn and photo-matched jersey for $2.58 million in 2019 while Jackie Robinson’s 1947 rookie jersey that sold at their 2017 auction for just over $2 million was resold privately through Heritage in 2018 for $2.6 million, according to Ivy.
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