Late Al Kaline’s memorabilia hits auction block next month; here are the highlights

Detroit News

Hundreds of pieces of late Detroit Tigers legend Al Kaline’s memorabilia collection, ranging from his Gold Gloves to his golf clubs, will be auctioned off next month at the request of No. 6 himself.

Dallas-based Heritage Auctions announced Thursday that the 400-plus-item lot will be up for bid as the centerpiece of its fall sports collectible auction, which runs from Nov. 18-20.

Included in the Kaline lot are items such as the 1968 World Series replica trophy presented to the team members at the 50th anniversary celebration, his 1984 World Series championship ring, American League championship rings given to him after the 2006 and 2012 seasons, 10 Gold Glove awards, several game-used balls, jerseys, bats and gloves, and even multiple golf bags and clubs belonging to the longtime member at Oakland Hills Country Club.

Kaline died April 6, 2020. He was 85.


“His idea was to share it with the fans,” Mark Kaline, one of Al’s two sons, said through the announcement from Heritage Auctions. “All these awards were about one thing — the work ethic. It was about commitment to hard work. I can remember Dad saying, ‘Whatever you do, be the best at it.’ In his case, that meant: Be the first guy in to take batting practice or shag balls. Become an expert at your craft, whatever that maybe be. Those are life lessons.

“The awards were emblematic of the hard work and dedication he had to being his best. He never professed to being the best. He was very flattered by a lot of the awards.”

The auction could fetch several million dollars, given the historical value of memorabilia from his playing days, as well the unique and personal nature of several items.

Aside from the Gold Gloves — which can fetch more than $10,000 each, and perhaps even double that, based on previous MLB auctions — also up for bid are Kaline’s 1980 Babe Ruth Crown award, his 1973 Roberto Clemente Award, his 1968 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, his 1999 Top Players of the Century award, his Hall of Fame induction pin, his Hall of Fame induction plaque and All-Star Game rings.

From a more personal standpoint, fans can bid on several of his signed professional contracts, including the one in 1971 when he famously turned down a $100,000 salary because he didn’t think he was worthy (he was the only one); his original typed speeches from his Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1980 and the final game at Tiger Stadium in 1999, the latter featuring his scribbled notes in blue ink; Hall of Fame polo shirts worn at the annual induction ceremony, which he attended every year through 2019; Tigers polo shirts worn around the ballpark during his tenure as a front-office executive; blazers and tuxedos, and his carry-on travel bags; lifetime membership cards to the Hall of Fame and all MLB stadiums; and even signed checks, made out to a variety of parties, from Hertz rental car to the IRS.

Kaline, who played right field for the Tigers from 1953 through 1974 before becoming a popular team TV broadcaster and later a front-office executive, also had a massive collection of signed baseballs, including several of his fellow Hall of Famers. Many of the baseballs have multiple signatures from his 18 appearances in the All-Star Game. There are baseballs signed by Babe Ruth and presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

The memorabilia goes back to his days growing up on the sandlots of Baltimore, before the Tigers signed him as an 18-year-old just out of high school, including his old yearbooks and childhood trophies.

There are clocks, watches and congratulatory telegrams, a key to the city of Flint, photos and autographs with golf legends like Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer, a signed photo of Detroit rock legend Bob Seger, letters from Sparky Anderson and Ernie Harwell, the hard hats he wore helping break ground on Comerica Park in 1997, the retired No. 6 sign that hung on the third deck at Tiger Stadium, congressional tributes, a football signed by Joe Namath, a soccer ball signed by Pele, the slippers he wore in the clubhouse at Tiger Stadium in the 1960s, and several signed receipts from rounds of golf at Oakland Hills. One of the golf bags is from the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills; another is a Tigers bag, with his No. 6.

Many of the items have been displayed in the Kalines’ home in Metro Detroit for many years, while many others have been in boxes and storage — the collection simply too big. Kaline wanted it auctioned off following his death so it didn’t become a burden to his family, including wife Louise and sons Mark and Michael. The Kalines said some of the proceeds will be passed on to several of Al’s favorite charities.

“Heritage Auctions has long been where baseball legends and their families have come to share their collections with fans,” Chris Ivy, founder and president of Heritage Sports, said in a statement.

“It’s an honor to add Mr. Tiger to that estimable list with an auction that offers a veritable history of the game he loved so much that he remained a part of it for his entire life.”

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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