Monday, February 4, 2013

#495 - Dick McAuliffe

For the first time in a long while Topps slips us a non-Traded traded card. In the ’73 off-season Detroit sent long-time second baseman Dick McAuliffe to Boston for young outfielder Ben Oglivie. Dick has an airbrushed “B” on his hat – I thought they always cut and pasted the logos – but otherwise looks pretty unblemished in an away flannel at Yankee Stadium. Like Danny Murtaugh of a few posts ago Dick always looked old – check out his ’62 rookie card – and while I suspect this photo is not from ’73, it could be from any one of the past ten seasons. Dick had a subpar season in ’72, a year in which it seemed all of Detroit’s aging stars threw all they had at a division title. And while his at bats declined, all his other offensive stats had a nice bounce in ’73. That year he pretty much platooned at second with Tony Taylor, but he got a card and Tony didn’t so maybe there was an emotional victory in that. He’d opined during the season that he’d have liked to spend his last couple seasons back near his Connecticut home so Detroit obliged him with the trade. He’d end his career with the Sox, but not in the way he’d probably hoped.

Dick McAuliffe was a pretty impressive shortstop while in high school in Farmington, CT, where he also played football and basketball. Signed by Detroit during his senior year of ’57 he got off to a slow start that summer, hitting .206 in D ball. He would actually finish high school during the next couple off-seasons. Around then he took on his celebrated batting stance. He’d been strictly a push hitter, sending nearly all his hits to the left side (he was a lefty). He began using a wide open stance and then closing it a bit when the pitcher went into his windup and rolling onto his back foot with his right one high up in the air (this can be seen on his ’73 action card). ’58 was much better with his new stance as he hit .286 at that level and .241 when called up to A ball. He spent ’59 in B and A ball around his service time and then ramped things up considerably in A ball in ’60 by hitting .301 with 109 runs, 21 triples, and a .404 OBA that got him some year-end looks in Detroit. In ’61 he hit .353 with a .418 OBA and 14 triples in half a season of Triple A ball before he came up for good.

The ’61 Tigers nearly won the pennant as just about every regular hit the crap out of the ball. McAuliffe got called up when regular shortstop Chico Fernandez was injured in early July and he did well enough to be the regular guy the rest of the season and also started a few games at third base. In ’62 Fernandez had one of his best offensive seasons though just about everyone else on the roster had a downtick and Dick spent the year switching starts at second and third with regulars Jake Wood and Steve Boros, outhitting each of them. In ’63 Detroit slid to a losing record and there was a bunch of transitions on the team, the most successful being Dick’s taking over shortstop pretty much full time. While he wasn’t the best defensive guy around, he was a hustler, and he hit way better than the average shortstop in his day, posting averages and especially OBA’s far above league norms. He recorded his biggest power year in ’64 and then the next two years was an All-Star as Detroit picked up Jerry Lumpe to take over second base, which really helped solidify the middle infield. In both ’65 and ’66 Dick missed about a month due to a hand injury the first year and food poisoning the second. By ’67 Lumpe was running out of gas and it was pretty apparent that Ray Oyler, who’d stepped in for Dick while he was injured, was the better defensive guy at short. So during the season Dick was moved to second, for the third time in four years he hit over 20 homers, and he was again an All-Star, now in a new position. The Tigers barely lost out to Boston for the pennant and in ’68 Dick helped take them all the way by leading the AL in runs with 95, topping out career-wise with 24 doubles and ten triples, and setting a record by not grounding into one double play all year. His most high-profile moment that year, though, wasn’t a great one. Thinking Tommy John was trying to bean him after the ChiSox pitcher threw two by his head, Dick rushed the mound and tackled John, separating the pitcher’s shoulder and getting him a five-game suspension.

Detroit was a contender for a new division title in ’69 until McAuliffe went down mid-season with a knee injury after generating first-half numbers that more than matched his ’68 ones. When he returned in ’70 he had his best year of plate control, getting 101 walks against 62 K’s, but his average and power slid a bit. In ’71 and ’72 he ceded some starts to Tony Taylor as his average didn’t bounce too well. He returned to the playoffs under Billy Martin in ’72 and then had a pretty good offensive year in ’73. In Boston the plan was for him to do back-up work at second and third behind Doug Griffin and Rico Petrocelli. He actually ended up getting more work than expected as they both were injured but he only hit .210 in 272 at bats with little power. In ’75 he took a job managing the Sox’ Bristol franchise and he did great work, guiding the team to the playoffs with a record of 81-57. Towards the end of the season Boston needed a reserve guy at third and Dick didn’t think Butch Hobson, his third baseman, was ready yet. So the team promoted Dick instead and he got a little work down the stretch. He had a tough moment, though, when a couple errors of his lost a game and sent the Fenway fans in a booing frenzy. He was left off the post-season roster and that was it for him. Dick finished with a .247 average on over 1,500 hits, 231 doubles, 197 homers, and 697 RBI’s. He also posted a .358 OBA and hit .213 in twelve post-season games with two homers and four RBI’s.

After playing McAuliffe did some work with baseball camps before owning and operating a business that repaired and installed washing machines and dryers in laundromats. For a brief time in the late Seventies he played professional softball. He sold his business in the late Eighties and since then had done some public appearance and autograph show work.

Dick has a flowing formal signature and gets a star bullet for another record of his. There’s the cartoon about his batting stance.

Bostton contributed its “Impossible Dream” pennant-winner of 1967 to the baseball centennial in ’76. The Sox had finished ninth in ’66 but had a pretty great group of young gamers in ’67 with Carl Yastrzemski, George Scott, Reggie Smith, Rico Petrocelli, Tony Conigliaro, and Mike Andrews all doing really nice offensive work. Jim Lonborg was putting together a Cy Young year and a lot of the bench guys were stepping up. The big scare was Tony C’s midyear beaning that took him out of baseball the next couple years. But about then the Sox picked up Gary Bell from Cleveland who did what Fred Norman did for the ’73 Reds and gave Boston another hot starter in the rotation. Yaz was on a tear all year on his way to a Triple Crown and MVP. And Dick Williams ran a tight ship, which worked for a bunch of kids. It was a tight race and Boston didn’t win outright until the last game of the season when it beat Minnesota at home 5-3 in which Lonborg won his 22nd game and Yaz went 4 for 4 with a couple RBI’s. Boston beat Detroit and Minnesota by a game and the White Sox by three games to go to the Series.

There was another veteran who went to Boston near the end of his career in ’74 and he comes in handy:

1. McAuliffe and Juan Marichal ’74 Red Sox;
2. Marichal and Ed Goodson ’70 to ’73 Giants.

No comments:

Post a Comment