Jeff Daniels has visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. He even bought a customized souvenir bat there.
But he never expected to be enshrined there himself -- with a little help from his childhood hero Al Kaline.
The Chelsea-based actor and musician is now part of the Hall's Kaline exhibit thanks to "Al Kaline," a tribute song he wrote shortly after the Detroit Tigers legend passed away on April 6 at the age of 85. Administrators at the hall of fame heard about the song after it was broadcast on the WDIV program "Flashpoint" and asked Daniels to send them his original lyrics, which were typed on an iPad with handwritten changes.
"I'm still shaking my head in disbelief," Daniels said by phone. "It's certainly nothing you expect nor do you hope for. It's beyond special. Certainly it's as special as winning the Emmy, right up there with that. And it's permanent. It's there forever.
"I'm just...so honored."
Daniels estimates he first saw Kaline play at Tiger Stadium around 1963 or 1964, at a Bat Day game where he received a Kaline bat that he still has and currently keeps on the wall in his exercise room. "Al Kaline" references that first encounter, which Daniels feels makes the song more than just his own remembrance.
"Once I got that bat day thing, I felt like, 'OK, this is more than just me. Maybe it's a universal thing about childhood heroes, and certainly about a baseball hero, that can connect with other people as well," Daniels explains. "The proof that you wrote a good song is when someone you don't know reacts to it and it connects with them on an emotional level. That's when you've succeeded."
Daniels has been waiting out the pandemic lockdown at his lakefront home in Chelsea, where he's also filmed a series of four intimate Monday night YouTube performances -- two more are left -- to benefit the employees of his Purple Rose Theatre Companies, produced with his sons Ben and Lucas. He's also investigating the possibility of playing virtual "tour" dates for other venues, and he's hoping filming will start soon on his new Showtime series, "Rust," which he's executive producing based on Philipp Meyer's 2009 novel "American Rust."
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