To generations of baseball fans, Al Kaline was “Mr. Tiger.”
But, to Jamestown native Amy Peterson, the Detroit Tigers’ Hall of Fame right fielder who passed away on Monday at the age of 85 will always be “Mr. Kaline.”
“Mr. Kaline was one of us in the office,” said Peterson, who spent 11 years working in the Tigers’ front office as the team’s associate counsel.
“My office was three doors down. … I remembered he walked by and introduced himself and I was pretty new on the job,” she said. “He welcomed me with open arms. I guess I didn’t really appreciate the legend he was from a baseball perspective. I didn’t get a chance to see him play, I had just heard stories. My legend appreciation was just as a person.”
After retiring from baseball in 1974 and after retiring from a two-decade broadcasting career in 2002, Kaline spent 17 years as a special assistant to former general manager and team president Dave Dombrowski, during which time he worked alongside Peterson.
“He would request that I be his golf cart partner every year for the corporate sales outing,” she remembered.
“We had a great time doing that and it was a great opportunity to catch up and learn a little bit more about the golf game,” Peterson added, “although he knew I wasn’t really interested in learning that much about how to play, but about going out there and talking about his family.”
Over the years, the daughter of Greg and Cindy Peterson established a personal friendship with Kaline, who always was curious about her family and vice versa.
“We were pretty close as far as that goes,” she said. “We knew a lot of personal details about each other, like when his wife was sick he’d share details about that or how his kids were doing. He was a pretty great family man.”
Based on his friendliness and demeanor in the office, that notion surely isn’t a surprise.
“I remember specifically there was a bunch of us in the front office that were training for the Detroit Marathon and we had a squares game going on to see how our times would be to raise money for a charity,” she said. “Mr. Kaline came down and purchased a bunch of squares. He was supportive of our collective efforts and he told me, he was very vocal about ‘You’re nuts, Amy. I can’t believe you’re going to run a marathon.'”
Those infrequent gatherings became commonplace, she noted.
“Just him coming into the office and sitting in my office and shooting the breeze — that was something I have missed since I left but will think of those moments very fondly,” she said.
And as the world continues to eulogize Kaline, Peterson noted that perhaps the best way is remembering 18-time all-star not for his prowess on the field, but his ability to be down-to-earth off it.
“His contributions after the game were pretty remarkable,” she said. “The players will say he was a mentor and inspiration to them and I know that talking to him about my dreams and ambitions about working in baseball, he was pretty encouraging and wanted to learn more about how I was doing. That meant a lot.”
She added, “Here he was, a Hall of Famer, acting just like a normal person in the front office.”