Was caught off guard last night when I learned that my "second favorite Detroit Tiger of all-time" -- Al Kaline -- left for Heaven. He played the game with such grace and class.
I feel like a just lost a little of my childhood...
The photo above is of Kaline sitting between Harvey Kuehn on the left and my Dad, Jim Small on the right. It's a photo from Opening Day 1956 in the Tiger's dugout, Kaline was 21 years-old playing right field and my dad was 19, playing center field for the Tigers. (You can tell who the California kid is in this picture -- all bundled up.)
Both (Kaline and my Dad) were "bonus babies" for the Tigers -- they are among the very few in baseball history who went straight from high school to the big leagues as 18 year-olds.
Kaline did it in 1953, joining the Tigers immediately after his high school graduation from Southern High School (Baltimore, MD) -- and my Dad did the same thing in 1955, right after his high school graduation from Bellarmine College Preparatory (San Jose, CA).