Avila at Third? Not All That Uncommon in Tigers History

Tonight Alex Avila is the Tigers’ starting third baseman in the opener of a three-game series in Denver against the Rockies.

Avila’s never played third in the majors but he’s not the first Tigers player to be pressed into action there. Did you know that Al Kaline appeared in two games at third during his career?

In 1961, he played a full nine innings at third, fielding a pair of chances cleanly, with a putout and an assist. Four years later he played 5.1 innings of a game with three chances, two putouts and an assist.

Johnny Wockenfuss, who played mostly at first, catcher and in the outfield, became even more of a utility man for Sparky Anderson when he played … parts of two games – all of 2.1 innings – at third base but never saw any action.

Like Kaline, in 1965 Willie Horton played third but outlasted him be two-thirds of an inning. In one game he played six innings, fielded two chances and earned an assist on both.

Others taking a turn at the hot corner include:

  • Mickey Stanley: 18 games over two seasons (1975 and ’76), 61 chances, 13 putouts, 46 assists and two errors
  • Alan Trammell: 43 games in two seasons (1993, ’96), 100 chances, 26 putouts, 69 assists, five errors
  • Ty Cobb: 1 game in 1918, two chances, with an assist and a putout.
  • Charlie Gehringer: 6 error-free games (and 26 chances) in 1926 for The Mechanical Man

I’m looking forward to this experiment. Having Avila’s bat in the lineup is huge and having him at third, well, can’t be any worse than Ryan Raburn.

What do you think?

Today’s Tiger: Mickey Stanley

Mickey Stanley

  • 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)

MickeyStanley.jpgFor 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.

Looking Back on Tigers Gold Glove Winners

MickeyStanley.jpgWell, no Tigers player won a Gold Glove this season, though some held out hope that Austin Jackson might’ve come away with some hardware. His day will come, I’m sure.

Let’s look back at the Gold Glove winners in franchise history:

1957

Al Kaline OF

1958

Frank Bolling 2B

Al Kaline OF

1959

Al Kaline OF

1961

Al Kaline OF

Frank Lary P

1962

Al Kaline OF

Continue reading “Looking Back on Tigers Gold Glove Winners”

Tigers Today: July 29, 2010

OutOfOrder.jpgTigers’ Record:

51-49, 3rd place; 5 GB Chicago

Today’s Game

Tigers @ Rays | 12:10 p.m. ET – Tropicana Field | On the air: FSD/AM 1270 and 97.1 FM

Pitching Matchup

Rick Porcello (4-8) vs. David Price (13-5)

Yesterday’s Results

Rays 7 – Tigers 4

Continue reading “Tigers Today: July 29, 2010”

Tigers Today: July 20, 2010

EmbarrassedGuyXSmall.jpgTigers’ Record:

48-43, 2nd place; 2.5 GB Chicago

Today’s Game

Tigers vs. Rangers | 7:05 p.m. ET – Comerica Park | On the air: FSD/AM 1270 and 97.1 FM

Pitching Matchup

Armando Galarraga (3-2, 4.45 ERA) vs. RHP Tommy Hunter (6-0, 2.39 ERA)

Yesterday’s Results

Rangers 8 – Tigers 6

Continue reading “Tigers Today: July 20, 2010”

Tigers Today: July 2, 2010

BallBatGrass.jpgTigers’ Record:

41-36, 2nd place; 1 GB of Minnesota

Today’s Game

Tigers vs. Mariners | 7:05 p.m. ET – Comerica Park | On the air: FSD/AM 1270 and 97.1 FM

Pitching Matchup

Max Scherzer (4-6, 5.26 ERA) vs. RHP Doug Fister (3-3, 2.81 ERA)

Yesterday’s Results

Off Day

Continue reading “Tigers Today: July 2, 2010”

Tigers Today: June 21, 2010

Tigers’ Record:

38-30, 2nd place; 1.5 GB of Minnesota

Tomorrow’s Game

Tigers @ Mets | 7:10 p.m. ET – Citi Field | On the air: FSD/AM 1270 and 97.1 FM

Pitching Matchup

Justin Verlander (8-4, 3.54 ERA) vs. LHP Jonathon Niese (4-2, 3.64 ERA)

Yesterday’s Results

Tigers 3 – Diamondbacks 1 | Fungo Recap

Continue reading “Tigers Today: June 21, 2010”