July 20, 1942 |
Grand Rapids, Michigan
|September 13, 1964, for the Detroit Tigers|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 28, 1978, for the Detroit Tigers|
|Runs batted in||500|
|Career highlights and awards|
Mitchell Jack "Mickey" Stanley (born July 20, 1942, in Grand Rapids, Michigan) is an American retired professional baseball player. He played his entire career in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Detroit Tigers from 1964-1978. Stanley was known as a superb defensive outfielder over his 15-year career, though he is best remembered for the last few weeks of the 1968 season.
Detroit Tigers career
Stanley made his Major League Baseball debut in center field with Detroit on September 13, 1964. He was an excellent defensive player, winning Gold Glove Awards in 1968, 1969, 1970, and 1973. For nine consecutive seasons, from 1966–1974, Stanley played the majority of the Tigers' games in center field. He had speed, a strong arm, good hands, and an ability to take the perfect first step to get a jump on balls headed to the gaps. In both 1968 and 1970, Stanley led all American League (AL) outfielders with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. His 1973 range factor of 2.74 was well above the league average of 2.02.
Stanley was an adequate but not overwhelming hitter. In 1970, the speedy Stanley was second in the American League with 11 triples. Until 1968, he was used mainly as a defensive replacement, pinch-hitter, and even part-time first baseman. He earned a regular spot in the lineup in 1968 with his slick fielding, .259 batting average, and hustle, and led the Tigers with 583 at-bats that season. The fact that outfielder Al Kaline spent part of the year injured also boosted Stanley's playing time.
With the 1968 AL pennant clinched, manager Mayo Smith started Stanley at shortstop for six of the last nine games of the season in preparation for the World Series. In an unorthodox move, Smith planned to replace regular shortstop Ray Oyler (who hit a paltry .135 that year) in favor of Stanley's superior bat. This would also allow the other three power hitting Tiger outfielders (Willie Horton, Jim Northrup, and Kaline) to all be in the lineup for the World Series. Prior to this, Stanley had only one start and eight total innings of experience at shortstop, accrued over both games of a doubleheader on August 23 that season. Despite his inexperience at the position, he played adequately, committing two errors in 34 chances and becoming the starting shortstop for the entire 1968 World Series. Oyler had only a single plate appearance in the series and appeared as a defensive replacement in all four Tigers' series wins. Stanley made two errors in the seven-game series, neither of which led to a run. He did not have a stellar series at the plate, hitting .214, but he did triple and score two runs in a pivotal Game 5 comeback win for the Tigers. And his move allowed Horton, Northrup, and Kaline to all play full-time; Horton batted .304 with one home run (HR) and three runs batted in (RBI), Northrup batted .250 with 2 HR and 8 RBI, and Kaline batted .379 with 2 HR and 8 RBI. In its "The End of the Century" series, ESPN rated Smith's decision to move Stanley to shortstop for the 1968 World Series as #4 of the 10 greatest coaching decisions of the 20th century.
Stanley returned to play 59 games at shortstop the next year after Oyler was allowed to be drafted by the expansion Seattle Pilots. However, the Stanley at shortstop experiment did not work long-term. While he played reasonably well defensively (seven errors in 252 chances), his batting average dropped to .235. It recovered when he was returned primarily to the outfield for the remainder of his career. Detroit finished the 1969 season 19 games out of first.
With the veteran Kaline injured and the arrival of the newly created Designated Hitter rule in 1973 (a spot primarily filled by aging slugger Frank Howard and pinch hitter Gates Brown that year), Stanley reached career highs in games (157, all in the outfield), at-bats (602), and home runs (17). He also played full-time in the outfield for the 1974 season before getting injured and then giving way to budding star Ron LeFlore. From 1975-1978 he completed his career as it had started, as a utility outfielder and late-inning defensive replacement, but this time he made occasional infield appearances, too. During these last four seasons, he played at least a few games at every position on the field except pitcher and catcher.
Stanley made the last play ever at the original Yankee Stadium, catching a fly ball hit by Mike Hegan on September 30, 1973. He is also remembered for his quote on being struck out by fireballer Nolan Ryan, who had once no-hit the Tigers in 1973: "Those were the best pitches I ever heard."
After retiring from baseball, Stanley signed with the Detroit Caesars professional softball club in 1979. He played part-time as the team advanced to the APSPL World Series but lost to the Milwaukee Schlitz. The Caesars folded after the season, and Stanley continued his career with the Detroit Auto Kings in their only season (1980). The Auto Kings won the Eastern Division of the North American Softball League and advanced to the league finals, where they also lost to the Schlitz.
Stanley now resides in Brighton, Michigan.
- 1968 Detroit Tigers season
- List of Major League Baseball players who spent their entire career with one franchise