When Al Kaline was approaching 3,000 hits late in the 1974 season, it overshadowed the fact that he also had 399 career home runs. But what nobody mentioned was that no American League player in baseball history ever had 400 career home runs and 3,000 hits.
Kaline could have been the first but fell one short. But he should have first and finished with 401.
On June 1, 1958, Kaline led off the bottom of the second inning with a home run off Ray Moore of the White Sox at Briggs Stadium in Detroit. The game was halted in the middle of the fourth inning because of rain and eventually was rained out, thus all stats from the game were erased.
Five years later, on May 17, 1963, the Tigers were set for a doubleheader with the Washington Senators in Washington. Kaline homered in the top of the second inning off Bennie Daniels, but soon after it began to rain and both games were wiped out, just as Kaline’s home run.
Five years after Kaline retired, Boston Red Sox slugger Carl Yastrzemski reached 400 home runs and 3,000 hits in the same season. It then was announced that he was the first American League player to reach that plateau. Kaline had not known he had a chance to be the first, and it led to some regret.
In the final game of his career, Kaline pulled himself from the game after his first two at-bats. It cost him two chances at becoming the American League’s first member of the 400-home run, 3,000-hit club.
“It was my fault,” Kaline said in The Detroit News in 2015. “It was one of the worst, if not the worst, decisions I’ve ever made in my life. Sometimes when you make bad decisions, you don’t realize how it might hurt other people.”
Kaline was speaking of Tigers outfielder Ben Oglivie, who replaced him in the game and was booed by the fans wanting a few more glimpses of Kaline.
“I really felt bad for Ben,” Kaline said.
He also wishes he had known about that 400-homer, 3,000-hit club.
“Back in those days, statistics weren’t as important,” he said. “You didn’t have ESPN, And I didn’t realize 400 homers would be such a milestone
The record book shows that Kaline finished with 399 home runs, and that is official. But No. 6 circled the bases 401 times in his major-league career. And that’s a fact.