Detroit Tiger Al Kaline was a hero to many kids growing up in the 1960s. His popularity was earned with his good sportsmanship and professionalism. He was truly a gentleman. Or so we often heard.

A funny thing happens when a kid meets his idol. It doesn't always match up with expectations. But my encounter with Al Kaline when I was age 14 left me and my best friend Don Hart roaring with laughter.

It was 1973, we were autograph hounds hanging out at Tiger Stadium long after the ballgame was over. Al was graciously signing autographs for us when my friend asked him if he would be retiring soon. When Al stopped and looked at Don, I felt the need to blurt out an explanation for Don's bold question "He thinks you're too old to play baseball."

Mr. Kaline looked me in the eye and said "I don't give a DAMN what he thinks!"

His blunt honesty was so awesome that Don and I roared with laughter. The perfect gentleman, Mr. Kaline had just SWORN at us!

Then he flashed a smile and gave me a wink, along with some great advice: "What matters most is what YOU think!"

We got more than just an autograph and a great story that day.

Thank you and may God bless you, Mr. Tiger.

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