Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mayo and the Mickeys gave Detroit a real fall classic

Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera is working out at third base, his old position, in the event the American League Central Division champions get all the way to the World Series.
Manager Jim Leyland is trying to find a way to keep the bats of Cabrera and designated hitter Victor Martinez in the lineup when the Tigers would play in a National League park, where the DH won't be used in the World Series.
Cabrera could play third and Martinez first, the Leyland thinking goes, in an NL venue.
People who follow the Tigers know something about this kind of personnel juggling.
In a move that worked to perfection, but was indeed a huge gamble, Tigers manager Mayo Smith moved center fielder Mickey Stanley to shortstop for the 1968 World Series.
Stanley's position change sent to the bench light-hitting shortstop Ray Oyler and opened a spot in the lineup (there was only one round of post-season play back then, and no DH in any World Series games) for all-time Tigers great Al Kaline, who missed a good portion of the season with an injury.
Imagine a move that brassy in today's sports media climate.
Blogs, talk shows, roundtables and social media would be abuzz with guesses and second-guesses over Smith's decision to mess with a lineup that had carried the Tigers to their first pennant since 1945.
Stanley played well at shortstop, even against the speedy Cardinals lineup that featured Lou Brock, and Kaline delivered at the plate as the Tigers won the World Series in seven games.
Left-hander Mickey Lolich, a long-time Macomb County resident, turned in three complete-game victories, had a 1.67 ERA and was named MVP of the series.
Outstanding as Justin Verlander has been for the Tigers this summer, it is unlikely he'll pitch 27 innings in any post-season series to match what Lolich did in the Year of the Tiger.


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