Dennis Clotworthy’s outstanding book Al Kaline’s Last Bat Boy is a wonderful memoir of his growing up around the Detroit Tigers, filled with warmth and humor, and fascinating anecdotes about his time as the team’s batboy in the early 1970s. During the 1974 season, Clotworthy witnessed the end of an era, with the release of fan favorite Norm Cash, Kaline’s 3,000th hit, and of course, his final at bat. That at bat occurred on October 2 against the Baltimore Orioles and was, by all accounts, unceremonious. Kaline was DH in that game, and was nursing a shoulder injury, and after his second at bat (a lineout to left), removed himself from the game. Clotworthy’s account of that final game included this recollection:
“Mr. Kaline simply took a seat in the dugout about midway along the bench. He had his Tiger warmup jacket on over his uniform. The stadium was eerily quiet, and he was motionless as he stared out over the dugout steps and straight out toward right field where he had roamed for the past 22 seasons. Bill Fundaro and I respectfully kept our conversation to a quiet minimum. You could see that Mr. Kaline was taking it all in just one more time before he left the dugout. I actually felt sad for him. It was like a loss, an ending, no tomorrow. After maybe about ten minutes, he came out of what seemed almost like a trance and began to look around to other areas of the stadium. It was time for him to leave the dugout and go into the tunnel that led to the clubhouse and join his teammates.
Now, what happened next is way beyond me. At least it’s certainly nothing I planned. How I got the nerve to ask my question right at that moment, I’ll never know, but ask I did. Maybe it was plain old genius on my part. Anyway, as Kaline slowly got up from the bench and slowly headed toward the dugout tunnel, I asked, “Mr. Kaline, may I have one of your bats as a keepsake?”
He smiled, looked at me and simply said, “Sure.”
Well, at that point, opportunity certainly had knocked for me. There were two of his bats still in the bat rack, along with the bats of maybe five or six other players. I had purposely not put his away, because I had intended to ask him for one of his bats early in the game when it wasn’t such a final, final thing. There were two bats, so which one do you think I pulled out of the bat rack and kept for myself? Yep, I took the one he used when he flew out to left field in his second at bat of the game.”
Presented here is that bat, the cornerstone of the wonderful Dennis Clotworthy Collection of Detroit Tigers memorabilia. The uncracked bat is in outstanding condition, a 1973-75 Louisville Slugger measuring 34.5″ in length and weighing 31.1 ounces. The bat exhibits outstanding signs of use, including several ball marks and stitch impressions, along with an impression from a weighted batting donut.
The bat was signed by Kaline, and subsequently inscribed by Kaline with the date “Oct 2, 1974.” The account of this is also included in Clotworthy’s book. The bat itself, coupled with Clotworthy’s account of that final game, have resulted in an outstanding grade of GU 10 by John Taube of PSA/DNA. Included with the bat and LOA is a signed and notarized letter from Clotworthy, along with a copy of his wonderful book.
Al Kaline is one of the most beloved figures in Detroit Tigers history, his 3,000th hit a milestone still fondly remembered by fans (remember, in 1974, 3,000 hits was an even more momentous achievement than it is today; Kaline was only the 12th player in baseball history and the first player in 49 years to reach that plateau). His 1974 retirement truly was the end of an era, and he continues to be an icon not only in Detroit, but for baseball fans everywhere.
We are thrilled to offer this outstanding document of “Mr. Tiger” and his stellar, Hall of Fame career. Full LOA from John Taube of PSA/DNA.