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.