When Jim Kaat was broadcasting a spring training game earlier this year, it was a milestone.


Not because it was one of the few games he got to call because of the coronavirus postponing the season, but because he is now part of a very small group to participate in Major League Baseball during eight decades.


Kaat, a Zeeland native, began his big-league career in 1959 and has been part of the game ever since.


His debut was with the Washington Senators and he moved with the team two years later to Minnesota, where he starred with the Twins for more than a decade, leading them to the 1965 World Series, facing Sandy Koufax head-to-head.


Kaat, now 81, played all the way until 1983, a 25-year playing career that included stops with the White Sox, Phillies, Yankees and Cardinals. He won the World Series in 1982 as a member of the Cardinals.


He finished his career with 283 wins, 2,461 strikeouts and a 3.45 earned run average. He also won 16 Gold Glove Awards as the top fielder at his position. He has been a finalist for the Hall of Fame several times and has come within two votes of being elected.


Kaat then moved to the broadcast booth, where he was a part of CBS’s national coverage, then broadcast with the Yankees YES Network before moving over to the MLB Network, where he currently does a dozen or so national games with Bob Costas. He also began broadcasting games for the Twins last year and is also in the Minnesota front office as a special assistant.


His sister and other family members still live in his hometown of Zeeland, where a Little League park was named in his honor.


Kaat has enjoyed so many moments over the decades, here is a look at a signature moment in each of his eight decades in the game.


1950s: MLB Debut


Kaat made his major league debut on Sunday, Aug. 2, 1959 at Comiskey Park in Chicago.


Starting for the Washington Senators, Kaat lasted 2 2/3 innings, allowing three runs (one earned) on two hits with three walks.


He faced just 14 hitters before giving way to reliever Hal Griggs. Kaat took the loss, but he was a big league pitcher. He had one more start that year and ended up 0-2, but it was the beginning of a long and successful career in the game.


1960s: Facing Koufax in the World Series


It was Game 2 of the 1965 World Series and the Zeeland native was facing Dodgers’ ace Sandy Koufax — arguably the greatest left-handed pitcher in the past 75 years, maybe ever.


The young Minnesota Twins lefty bested the legend, allowing just one run in a complete game. The Twins won 5-1 but ended up losing the series in seven games with Kaat losing to Koufax in Game 5 and Game 7.


“It is still a thrill 50 years later to say you hooked up with the greatest pitcher — at least in my baseball lifetime — the greatest pitcher there was in the big leagues,” Kaat said. “I have become good friends with Sandy since and he is a terrific man.”


It was the first pennant in Minnesota history.


“In those days, there was only one game a week on television, and the rest of us were all playing during that time. So I had never seen Sandy pitch,” Kaat said. “When I first saw him in person, I remember telling Johnny Sain after three innings of Game 2 that if I give up a run, this game is over. I don’t see anybody that can hit this guy. He looked superhuman. We really didn’t knock him around, we got one earned run off of him — they took him out later for a pinch hitter, then he shut us out the next to starts.


“It was a little demoralizing going up against a guy like that because you knew if you gave up a run or two, the game was pretty-much over.”


1970s: Last All-Star Game


Kaat was one of the top left-handed pitchers in the game throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s. In 1975, he had his last great season as a starter.


Pitching for the Chicago White Sox, he went 20-14 with a 3.11 ERA to earn his third, and final, All-Star Game selection. He finished fourth in the Cy Young Award voting.


At the 1975 All-Star Game at County Stadium in Milwaukee, Kaat pitched two scoreless innings of relief. In the fifth inning, he got Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench out 1-2-3. In the sixth, he retired Steve Garvey, Reggie Smith and Ron Cey.


In the seventh inning, Kaat was pinch-hit for by Carl Yastrzemski, who promptly homered, though the National League went on to win 6-3.


1980s: World Series Champion


In 1982, Kaat was in his 24th season as a player. He had a great career and could have retired a few years earlier, but Kaat felt his career was not complete. He wanted to pitch as long as he could and try to finally be on a World Series championship team.


He pitched in the World Series in 1965, facing Koufax twice as the Twins lost to the Dodgers in seven games. The Twins also made the playoffs in 1970.


Kaat joined the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1980 season and was immediately the elder-statesman on an young team. By 1982, the Cardinals were led by young stars Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee and Tommy Herr, in addition to veterans like Keith Hernandez, George Hendrick and Darrell Porter.


Kaat was 5-3 during the regular season and appeared in four games in the World Series. He pitched a total of 2 1/3 inning in the series against the Brewers, allowing four hits and one run.


The Cardinals beat the Brewers in seven games thanks to the timely hitting of series MVP Porter, some spectacular fielding by McGee and a signature play from Ozzie Smith, who tagged up on a fly to center and scored all the way from second base.


1990s: Emmy Awards, covering a dynasty


Kaat joined the Yankees’ YES Network and was broadcasting when the team had its most recent dynasty. Led by manager Joe Torre and a core group of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada, the Yankees won World Series titles in four out of five seasons beginning in 1996.


In 1996 and 1998, respectively, he was on the team that won New York Emmy Awards for "Outstanding Live Sports Coverage — Single Program" for coverage of Dwight Gooden's no hitter and David Wells' perfect game. In 1998, MSG Network's Yankee telecasts, of which he was a part, also won the New York Emmy for "Outstanding Live Sports Coverage Series — Professional." In 1995, Kaat was nominated for a New York Emmy award in the "On Camera Achievement" category. He later won that award in 2006.


2000s: Jim Kaat Little League Park


In 2005, plans began for the Jim Kaat Little League Park in Holland Township. There are four Little League fields at the complex, part of Helder Park.


Kaat returned for the groundbreaking, as well as the dedication when it ws completed. In 2009, he returned to dedicate the lights to honor is late wife MaryAnn, who died of cancer in 2008. Her name is on the fund dedicated to raising money to light the field.


He set up the MaryAnn Kaat Memorial Fund through the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area. With the help of some noted celebrities, the fund raised about $65,000 to put up the lights, which lit up a Little League game for the first time in May.


The New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins each contributed to the fund, as did Kaat’s former Twins teammate Bert Blyleven. The final push to reach the fund’s goal came from talk show host Maury Povich, who wrote the final check needed following a round of golf with Kaat earlier this year.


The plaque, in part, says of MaryAnn Kaat, “When you play or see a game under the lights, our wish is that you remember this wonder of a woman and how much she meant to so many.”


2010s: So close to the Hall of Fame


Kaat has been a strong Hall of Fame candidate for decades. He had support on the writers ballot, but did not receive the 75 percent required for election.


The 283-game winner and 16-time Gold Glove winner, has been a finalist on the varying committees that started with the Veterans Committee, but now is split up by era.


The last time the Golden Era ballot was voted upon was 2014.


Twelve votes from the 16-member committee were needed to be elected. Kaat received 10, missing by two votes.


No player was elected.


Kaat’s teammate Tony Oliva and Dick Allen each missed by one vote, garnering 11. Maury Wills (nine) missed by three and Minnie Minoso (eight) missed by four.


The Golden Era committee will be voted on again in December.


Kaat has maintained it is something that he doesn’t dwell on and thinks there are more deserving candidates than himself out there. But he has come mighty close.


2020s: Lasting Legacy


Just being in the booth to broadcast a couple of spring training games for the MLB Network with Bob Costas added another layer of Kaat’s legacy.


He has officially been a part of Major League Baseball in eight decades, something very few people in the history of the game have equaled.


Just being on TV has allowed a new generation of baseball fans to wonder who this former pitcher was and look him up, learning about one of the best left-handed pitchers in the history of the game.


Who knows? His legacy might be fully cemented this year when the Hall of Fame Golden Era results are announced.


After eight decades in the game, it would be a fitting finale.


— Contact Sports Editor Dan D'Addona at Dan.D'Addona@hollandsentinel.com or 616-546-4276. Follow him on Twitter @DanDAddona and Facebook @Holland Sentinel Sports.