Tuesday, April 9, 2013

#530 - Mickey Stanley

Mickey Stanley shows off his go-to pose at Comiskey. Pretty much every card up to this point of his had this stance at various stadiums. But that’s OK because Mickey was a pretty consistent guy who was able to use his defense and his versatility as well as some timely hitting to build a nice career for himself even though most of his outfield mates got more press and generally better offensive stats. He had a pretty good year in ’73, recording his personal best with 17 homers and winning his first Gold Glove in three years. It wasn’t nearly as exciting a season as the prior year when the backbone of the ’68 Series champs grabbed the division title. But it still had its moments, like when he recorded eleven putouts in a game in center, setting a record. His most endearing moment, though, may have come in a loss, a no-hitter by Nolan Ryan after which Mickey said, “Those were the fastest pitches I ever heard.”

After starring in the big three sports in high school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Mickey Stanley was signed shortly after he graduated and played a summer of local ball before getting things rolling professionally in ’61. He’d been a pitcher and second baseman in high school but immediately became an outfielder that summer in D ball (where he hit .279 with some power) and C ball (where he hit .223 with none). In ’62 he hit .285 with 18 stolen bases at the higher level and in ’63 he jumped to Double A where he hit .252. He bettered that big in ’64 when he hit .304 after a slow start in Triple A and then had a September debut in Detroit. He returned to Triple A for most of ’65 and had a nice year, hitting .281 with 73 RBI’s. He returned to Detroit late that summer after incumbent center fielder Don Demeter got hurt and got in about a month as the regular guy. He hit over .300 his first couple weeks and then had a cold streak at the plate to finish the year.

Stanley made the cut in ’66 as the fifth outfielder behind Demeter, Al Kaline, Jim Northrup, and Willie Horton. He got some early looks but then broke his hand in May, missing about a month. When he returned Demeter was traded to Boston and Mickey got the lion’s share of work the rest of the way, raising his average about 100 points from before his injury. In ’67 he split time in center with Northrup after he was originally scheduled to go solo but his average compromised his time in the field. In ’68 he had a big bounce – bigger because just about every other hitter’s stats fell – as his average rebounded and he added some decent power. He also won his first Gold Glove, which was pretty extraordinary given what happened during the season. Mickey was the uncontested guy in center except on two occasions: one was when injuries to Kaline and Norm Cash required him to put in some time at first; and two was when after the Tigers clinched manager Mayo Smith had him start some games at shortstop where regular Ray Oyler was not even close to Mendoza levels. This experiment would go on to be a high-profile success in the ’68 Series win when Smith kept Mickey there the whole Series, allowing Kaline to start in the outfield and keep his big bat in the line-up. After that big win Oyler went to the Seattle Pilots in the expansion draft and Mickey spent some time at shortstop in ’69 but after Detroit acquired Tommy Tresh from NY, Mickey returned to his spot in center where he would reside the next five seasons.

In ’69 and ’70 Stanley won two more Gold Gloves in center field. In that first year he hurt his arm at shortstop and his average fell a bit but he recorded his personal high with 70 RBI’s. In ’70 he led Detroit in a bunch of hitting categories as the team put up a losing record for the first time in a bunch of years. In ’71 he recorded his best average though his playing time slipped as new manager Billy Martin moved around the outfield pieces a bunch more. In the ’72 division title year his average fell a bit but he doubled his homers, added a bunch of RBI’s, and hit .333 against Oakland in the AL playoffs. In ’74 he was the starting guy in center until he broke his hand on a pitch and while he sat new guy Ron LeFlore took over his position. Mickey did return to win a game with an over the wall catch of a Rico Petrocelli homer attempt but with the younger LeFlore now entrenched in the line-up his days as a regular were pretty much over. In ’75 he was having a pretty good run as a reserve guy when a – guess what? – broken hand pulled him out of action for a month.  He did up his average by 30 points and kept it there in ’76 as he did back-up work at center and left as well as both infield corners. He continued in those roles the next two years and hit .265 in ’78, his final season. Mickey finished with a .248 average, 117 homers, 500 RBI’s, and lots of assists from center. In the post-season he hit .235 in eleven games.

After retiring Stanley played a year of professional softball in the Detroit area and then settled into a long career as a manufacturer’s representative. He then moved into real estate development in which he partnered with his son. He still resides in Michigan.

That outfield streak in the cartoon happened mostly during the ’68 season when he didn’t have an error all year in center. He also turned that trick in ’66 and ’70.

Since the Bill Bonham post represented the 80% mark of this set it is an appropriate time to review the statuses of the different categories;

Starting with post-season representation, each year from ’59 to ’90 is now represented by at least one member of a team that played in that year’s post-season. My rather subjective inclusion of that Game 2 Series card as a Willie Mays one also adds ’51 and ’54 to the mix. And Dave Winfield’s rookie card adds ’92 and ’95 on the front end. The ’73 post-season has the most representation with 79 participants.

Topps Rookie Teams – we now have the full complement of the ’73 team’s ten guys. The older teams stack up as follows (year and players):

’59 – 3    ’60 – 2    ’61 – 3    ’62 – 1    ’63 – 3    ’64 – 3    ’65 – 5    ’66 – 5
’67 – 6    ’68 – 6    ’69 – 7    ’70 – 5    ’71 – 8    ’72 – 8

Award Winners – the set is up to 23 former or future MVP’s. We are also at 15 Cy Young winners; ten Firemen of the Year; 19 Managers of the Year; 22 Rookie of the Year winners; 24 Comeback Players of the Year; and seven The Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year winners.

Milestones - there are 26 Hall of Fame inductees. There are 51 official or non-official Traded cards. There are 39 rookie cards in the set, so far trumped by 49 cards representing the final ones issued for that subject as a player. And 53 players from this set are now deceased.

Odds and Ends – there have been 123 action shots, 301 shots of subjects in away uniforms and 162 in home uniforms. There have been 39 players with parenthetical names, a good indication of the number of Latin guys in the set. The Washington Nat’l card number has been stuck at 14 for a while. And both ugly cards and those of guys who were in Viet Nam are stuck at five each.

This hook-up was alluded to above:

1. Stanley and Tommy Tresh ’69 Tigers;
2. Tresh and Horace Clarke ’65 to ’68 Yankees.

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