Stuck in a photo archive for decades, an original photograph of 19-year-old Al Kaline has hit the auction block. The 7×9 black and white image comes from the same photo session that produced the image seen on the front of his 1954 Topps rookie card.
The photo, part of RMY Auctions’ April online catalog, shows a smiling Kaline posed while leaning on his bat. Dated in late June of 1954 but likely captured much earlier, the image includes the original caption, still attached to the reverse, which lauds Kaline and other Tiger youngsters as being the main reason the team was enjoying some unexpected success.
Kaline had made his major lague debut midway through the 1953 season and became Detroit’s starting right fielder in ’54. The following year he would become, at 20 years old, the youngest player ever to win a batting title.
The result of that photo session was so good that the Topps company took one of the images and used it on Kaline’s first baseball card, helping complete an epic trio of rookie cards in the set. The ’54 set also includes the first cards of Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks.
The photo being offered by RMY is nearly identical to the one Topps used but there are a couple of subtle differences, making it likely that more than one image of Kaline was taken at that instant.
It’s the first time the historic photo has ever been offered publicly. It contains a small staple hole on the lower left but is otherwise in good condition.
The auction includes several hundred photos with bidding set to continue through Saturday at RMYAuctions.com.