It is not every day that you come across a previously unpublished photograph of a 16 year old future baseball Hall of Famer. This is especially true when considering that the picture was taken in Baltimore and depicts that future Hall of Famer wearing the uniform of a local sandlot company team.
A few months back, serendipity brought that picture to me, providing yet another Deadball Moment. Since 1998, I have been a Sunday-Plan Baltimore Orioles Season Ticket Holder, first in section 84, then section 78, and then, beginning in 2012, section 76. My move to section 76 introduced me almost immediately to the Sunday Mayor of Section 76, Rob Noel, who just happens to sit one row in front of me. As luck would have it, Rob likewise shares a passion for the Orioles, baseball stadiums, and lost ballparks, hosting baseballpanoramic.com, a website devoted to panoramic photos of ballparks.
As with any true politician, Mayor Rob has a cadre of friends dispersed throughout section 76, including Mark Tharle, who just happens to be married to Kathy Kaline. Which brings me back to the previously-unpublished, future-Hall-of-Famer-photograph. Turns out Kathy’s father George was the cousin of Westport/Baltimore native Al Kaline. After having read my post about Al Kaline’s boyhood home, Mark forwarded to me a family photo of Cousins George and Al Kaline donning their Gordon’s Stores baseball uniforms. After doing a bit of research, here is what I have found out about that photo. In 1951, the cousins played for a local team financed by Gordon’s Quality Dry Cleaning and Laundry and coached by one of Al Kaline’s Baltimore mentors, Sterling “Sheriff” Fowble .
The Gordon’s Store jersey worn by Al Kaline is now on display at the Sports Legends Museum in Baltimore.
According to Kathy Kaline, the picture of her father and Al Kaline was taken at Carroll Park, which is located in Baltimore just north of Interstate 95 at the intersection of Bush Street and Washington Boulevard. Carroll Park originally was part of Charles Carroll’s 2,000 acre Mount Clare Estate situated along the Patapsco River.
In the northeast section of the park, approximately two miles west of Oriole Park at Camden Yards are four youth baseball fields. Presumably the picture was taken somewhere in this section of the park.
The Kaline family home still stands in Westport, just two and a half miles south of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. According to Mayor Rob, Al Kaline’s father, Nicholas Kaline, worked at the Atlantic-Southwestern Broom Company. Al Kaline purportedly played on a baseball field located near that building as well. The building still stands at 3500 Boston Street in Baltimore and is known now as the Broom Factory, which has been repurposed to include restaurants, retail, and office space.
Al Kaline was a baseball phenomenon at Southern High School, once located in south Baltimore near the Inner Harbor on Warren Avenue between William Street and Riverside Avenue (thanks to Bob Neal for the clarification!), across the street from Federal Hill Park.
The three buildings that once comprised the high school are now apartments.
A new Southern HS building was constructed nearby at 1100 Covington Street – years after Kaline graduated – and is currently Digital Harbor High School.
In 1953, two years after the Kaline Cousins photo was taken, Al Kaline signed a contract out of high school to play for the Detroit Tigers, never spending one day in the minor leagues before making his professional debut. As fate would have it, the American League Baltimore Orioles returned to the city the following year, but by then Kaline already had established himself as the Tiger’s every day center fielder. Perhaps because of his Baltimore connection, serendipity came into play on September 24, 1974, as well, when Kaline made his 3,000 hit at none other than Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.
Thanks to Mark and Kathy for sharing your family photo with me. Thanks also to serendipity and Mayor Rob.