A Serendipitous Al Kaline Deadball Moment

It is not every day that you come across a previously unpublished photograph of a 16 year old future baseball Hall of Famer.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 Which brings me back to the previously-unpublished, future-Hall-of-Famer-photograph.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 .

Cousins George and Al Kaline (original photograph and image owned by Mark Tharle and Kathy Kaline - used by permission)

Cousins George and Al Kaline (original photograph and image owned by Mark Tharle and Kathy Kaline – used by permission)

The Gordon’s Store jersey worn by Al Kaline is now on display at the Sports Legends Museum in Baltimore.

Al Kaline's Gordon's Store Jersey on Display at the Sports Legends Museum

Al Kaline’s Gordon’s Store Jersey on Display at the Sports Legends Museum

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.

Mount Claire Estate with Montgomery Park Building (formerly Montgomery Wards) in Background

Mount Claire Estate with Montgomery Park Building (formerly Montgomery Wards) in Background

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.

Youth Baseball Fields at Carroll Park in Baltimore

Youth Baseball Fields at Carroll Park in Baltimore

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. 

Former Atlantic Southwest Broom Company Building, Just a long fly ball from the old Natty Boh Factory on Brewery Hill

Former Atlantic Southwestern Broom Company Building, just a long fly ball from the old Natty Boh Factory on Brewery Hill

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.

Former Southern High School Building at Intersection of Warren and Battery

Former Southern High School Building on Warren Avenue across from Battery Avenue

The three buildings that once comprised the high school are now apartments.

Former Southern High School Building at Warren Avenue and William Street

Former Southern High School Building at Warren Avenue and William Street

A new Southern HS building was constructed nearby at 1100 Covington Street – years after Kaline graduated – and is currently Digital Harbor High School.

Digital Harbor High School in Baltimore, formerly Southern High School

Digital Harbor High School in Baltimore, formerly Southern 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.

5 Responses to 'A Serendipitous Al Kaline Deadball Moment'

  1. Avatar Austin says:

    Very cool! The father of my long-time friend, Al Smith, caught on that Southern High team as a sophomore when Kaline was a senior.

    • David Stinson David Stinson says:

      Hello Austin

      Any chance Al Smith’s dad has a copy of the baseball team photo from his yearbook? It would be cool to post that as well, if he has it. DBS

  2. Avatar Rob Noel says:

    Incredible work David! My jaw dropped seeing that the Gordon’s Store jersey is still in existence. As mayor (too funny), you deserve keys to the city for another great history lesson. Again great job and looking forward to your next deadball moment!

  3. Avatar Bob Neal says:

    Dave, great story about Baltimore’s own Al Kaline, just a quick tweek, the original Southern High School still stands at the corner of Warren and Riverside Avenues, opposite Federal Hill Park. It has been an ugapartment complex for a number of years now. The Southern High in your photo was once the site of the Diamond International Printing Company.
    Enjoy your website. Thanks, Bob Nealg

    • David Stinson David Stinson says:

      Hello Bob

      Thanks for the tweek. I’m glad to hear the original building still stands, even if it is as apartments. Just to be clear, the Southern HS building at Warren and Riverside is the same building Al Kaline would have attended? DBS