Kaline would have reached 400-homer plateau had weather cooperated

Written by: Craig Muder

When Carl Yastrzemski recorded his 3,000th career hit on Sept. 12, 1979, he was celebrated throughout the baseball world as the only American League player to total at least 400 home runs and 3,000 hits.

But when Al Kaline finished his career following the 1974 season, he had hit 400 home runs among his 3,007 hits. The American League, however, didn’t recognize Kaline’s mark – because one of his home runs came during a game that was rained out.

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On June 1, 1958, Kaline homered off the White Sox’s Ray Moore in the second inning at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium, sending an opposite-field shot rocketing over the right field wall. But with the Tigers batting in the bottom of the fourth, heavy rain began falling. After a 56-minute delay, crew chief Bill Summers decided the Sunday contest could not be played to conclusion and sent the teams home.

It would have been Kaline’s fifth homer of the season and would have made his career total an even 400 had a few more batters recorded outs. The Tigers were leading the game 1-0 – Detroit pitcher Frank Lary had allowed just one single to that point – and needed only to set down the White Sox in the top of the fifth to make the game official.

“The way (Frank) Lary was pitching, he would have shut them out for sure,” Tigers manager Jack Tighe told the Detroit Free Press.

By the time Kaline played his final game on Oct. 2, 1974, everyone knew he was one homer short of 400.

He batted twice in that game against the Orioles but was removed for pinch hitter Ben Oglivie in the fifth inning when his sore left shoulder could take no more.

The 4,671 fans at Tiger Stadium that day booed in dissent, wanting Kaline to have one more crack at history.

“Everybody wanted to have me hit my 400th home run,” Kaline told the Associated Press. “But there was no way I could swing hard enough to hit a home run. I could only punch the ball.”

When Yastrzemski recorded his 3,000th hit, he had already reached the 400-homer milestone. Only three other players – Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Stan Musial – had joined the 400/3,000 club at that time.

“It’s not that big a thing,” Tigers manager Ralph Houk told the AP of Kaline’s quest for 400 home runs. “The guy couldn’t go out there again with that shoulder.

“He’s given 100 percent all day, all year.”

The lack of a 400th home run hardly cost Kaline when his legacy was written. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980 in his first appearance on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot, becoming just the 10th player to earn election in his first year of BBWAA eligibility.

“I thought of all the guys who didn’t make it on the first ballot,” Kaline told the Baltimore Sun on the day he was elected to the Hall of Fame, “and the last three days I was really nervous.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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