Here's why Al Kaline's HOF plaque, Tigers' record books have the legend's RBI total wrong
Detroit — When it came to playing right field, Mr. Tiger Al Kaline sure didn't make many errors. He made just 61 in more than 2,000 games in right field, compared to 131 for Pittsburgh Pirates legend Roberto Clemente, regarded as arguably the best ever to play that position.
But when it came to Kaline's Baseball Hall of Fame plaque, there is, indeed, an error — though it appears to be one of those after-the-fact miscalculations.
Kaline's plaque, unveiled at his induction ceremony in 1980, states that the legendary Tiger had 1,583 career RBIs. As it turns out, he only is officially credited with 1,582.
The discrepancy first was pointed out by eagle-eyed Tigers fan Steve Kahldon, who reached out to The News following Kaline's death April 6 at the age of 85.
The News then decided to do some digging, to see which number is correct. The Baseball Hall of Fame confirmed the 1,582 figure.
"Al Kaline’s plaque reflects his RBI total as it was known at the time of its creation," said Jon Shestakofsky, vice president of communications and education for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
"A few years back, Baseball Reference updated it’s record to reflect a mistake that was found in Kaline’s original RBI total."
The Hall of Fame doesn't order new plaques when a correction is found, post-ceremony, like this.
Kaline's stats aren't the only ones to change over time. Lou Gehrig had his stats amended, for instance. He once was credited with 1,991 RBIs; now, Baseball-Reference.com gives him 1,995. RBIs are among the most popular stats to have official records changed over the years, given the definition of RBI has been altered throughout baseball's history.
A spokesperson for Baseball-Reference.com didn't know exactly why Kaline's record was changed.
"I'm not certain of the history here, but I do know that in the 1980s and 1990s research began in earnest on correcting historical RBI records," the spokesperson said in an email to The News.
"So I don't doubt that was done with Kaline after his induction in 1980."
Among those surprised by the finding: the Tigers, themselves. On their website and in their official records, they list Kaline with 1,583 RBIs — second all-time in franchise history, behind Ty Cobb's 1,805. A Tigers spokesman said the team would look into confirming the total.
One RBI means little, of course, in the grand scheme of things.
But baseball wonks love their stats, so we figured we'd set the record straight.