Today’s Tiger: Mickey Stanley
Posted on January 2, 2011
- Born: July 20, 1942 in Grand Rapids, Mich.
- Acquired: Signed by the Tigers as an amateur free agent in 1961
- Seasons in Detroit: 15 (1964-78)
- Uniform Numbers: 49, 24
- Stats: .248 avg., 117 HR, 500 RBI, .675 OPS
- Awards: 4 Gold Gloves (1968-70, 1973)
For many fans, Mickey Stanley’s defining moment with the Tigers came in the 1968 World Series when manager Mayo Smith shifted him from the outfield to shortstop — a position he’d played only in nine major-league games.
The move was made specifically to keep Al Kaline in the lineup while adding some pop to the ’68 team’s woeful production at shortstop. Ray Oyler played most at short that year (111 games) but hit just .135, while backups Tom Matchick and Dick Tracewski combined hit an anemic .180.
In his terrific bio on Stanley, which appears in the 2008 book Sock It to ‘Em Tigers, Jerry Nechal sums up the new shortstop’s performance in the Series against the Cardinals:
Obviously a quick learner, Stanley went on to amaze the baseball world in the Series. In the first inning of Game 1 he was tested by a leadoff ground ball off the bat of the speedy Lou Brock. Brock was out on a close play and Mickey’s fielding at shortstop became a nonfactor. He successfully handled 30 of 32 chances, making two inconsequential errors.
Mickey Stanley broke in with the Tigers on September 13, 1964, singling in his first at bat off Claude Osteen, and appeared in just four games that season. He played in 30 games the following season before making the big club out of Spring Training in 1966, and soon became a fixture in centerfield for the Tigers until a speedy rookie Ron LeFlore took over in the mid-’70s.
My greatest memory of Stanley comes from Aug. 10, 1977, the first Tigers game I ever attended. The starting pitcher for the Tigers was rookie Jack Morris who would pitch 7.2 innings on the way to his first major-league win, but he wouldn’t have gotten the win that night without a dazzling play by Mickey Stanley with two out in the ninth inning.
With Von Joshua at first, Cecil Cooper stood at the plate as the potential tying run. He launched a pitch from Steve Foucault deep to right field and from my lower deck seats on the first base side, it looked like it would indeed tie the game. Instead, Stanley timed his jump and took away a home run, securing a 5-3 win for the Tigers — and Morris.
And it took no time for me to decide who my favorite Tigers were.
Mickey Stanley retired after the 1978 season, his 15th, after playing in 1,516 games — all with the Tigers. According to Nechal’s biography, today Stanley lives in the Brighton, Mich., area.