When an outfielder played shortstop in the World Series

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My friend Rob Neyer has a good story up over at The National Pastime Museum today. It’s about how, in 1968, the Detroit Tigers used an outfielder who had never played a single moment at shortstop as a professional as their starting shortstop in the god dang World Series.

That man was Mickey Stanley. The manager who put him at short was Mayo Smith. And, of course, the Tigers won that World Series. As Rob explains, however, the decision was not made as impulsively as quick-and-dirty summaries of the 1968 World Series often suggest. Go check out his story to see why this strange set of events was put into play and just how Smith did it.

The Mickey Stanley-at-shortstop story was like a minor religious parable when I was growing up in Michigan and following the Tigers in the late 70s and early 80s. When 1968 came up, people who remembered it talked about Mickey Lolich’s World Series heroics first, Denny McCain’s 31-win regular season second and Mickey Stanley at short third. Indeed, I think it messed up a whole generation of Tigers fans, making them think you could just plug any old player in at any position and it’d just work.

That usually doesn’t happen, but it worked at least once.

A-Rod to join ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball booth

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Alex Rodriguez’s post-retirement renaissance continues apace. After starring as a studio host for Fox’s playoff coverage over the past couple of years, A-Rod is about to be named to, arguably, televised baseball’s top job: color commentary in ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball booth.

Michael McCarthy of The Sporting News is hearing that ESPN is going to give the gig, vacated by Aaron Boone by virtue of his hiring by the Yankees, to Rodriguez. There he’ll join Jessica Mendoza and whoever they get to replace play-by-play man Dan Shulman, who chose to step back from the Sunday night job following last season. This, by the way, marks the second time A-Rod has taken over Aaron Boone’s job given that he replaced Boone at third base for the Yankees in 2004.

The twist: A-Rod is likely to keep his Fox postseason job too. While some broadcasters work for multiple networks, it’s pretty rare for Fox to allow its talents to work for competitors like that. Apparently they believe keeping A-Rod — who five years ago was one of the most despised figures in baseball — is worth it. What a difference a few years makes.

In other news, Alex Rodriguez is likely to be shunned mightily by the current crop of BBWAA voters when he hits the Hall of Fame ballot in a couple of years. At the rate he’s going, though, their successors will put him in Cooperstown via the Ford Frick Award sometime in the 2040s.