- CF, LF, OF, 1B, 2B, SS, RF, 3B, DH
- July 20, 1942
- 6' 1"
- 185 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-13-1964 with DET
- Allstar Selections:
- 1968 GG, 1969 GG, 1970 GG, 1973 GG
Best known as part of Mayo Smith's famous gamble in the 1968 World Series, Mickey Stanley spent 15 years in the big leagues as a stellar defensive center fielder. In the '68 Series he was moved to shortstop to help make room for Al Kaline's bat in the outfield. Stanley made a couple of inconsequential errors at short, but otherwise handled the strange position very well. The Michigan-native won four Gold Gloves for his play in center field.
Stanley prepped at Ottawa Hills High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Stanley made his MLB debut in center field with Detroit on September 13, 1964.
Stanley was an excellent fielder, winning Gold Gloves in 1968, 1969, 1970, and 1973. For 9 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 for loose seams headed to the gaps. In both 1968 and 1970, Stanley led all American League 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 average and hustle. The fact that outfielder Al Kaline spent part of the year injured also boosted Stanley's playing time.
With the American League pennant clinched and two weeks left in the '68 season, manager Mayo Smith asked Stanley to play the last nine games of the regular season at shortstop, the first time he had ever played the position. This was in preparation for the World Series, in which Smith planned to replace weak-hitting regular shortstop Ray Oyler (who was hitting a paltry .135 at the time) in favor of Stanley's superior bat. Stanley did a decent job, committing two errors in 34 chances, and became the starting shortstop for the entire 1968 World Series. Oyler did not have an official at-bat in the Series and appeared in only four games as a defensive replacement—the four games the Tigers needed to win the series. 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.
In its "The End of the Century" series, ESPN rated Smith's decision to move Stanley to shortstop for the 1968 World Series as one 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-short experiment did not work long-term, and Detroit finished the 1969 season 19 games out of first. Stanley's batting average also dropped to .235. It recovered when he was returned primarily to the outfield for the remainder of his career.
With the veteran Al 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. He completed his career in 1975-1978 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. He also made the last play ever at the original Yankee Stadium, catching a fly ball hit by Mike Hegan on September 30, 1973.
Stanley 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 Auto Kings, a professional softball team and played a part-time role in their only season (1980). Detroit won the Eastern Division of the North American Softball League (NASL) and advanced to the league finals, where they lost to the Milwaukee Schlitz.
Stanley now resides in Brighton, Michigan.
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- Mickey Stanley