A History of Detroit Tigers Second Basemen

By Brad Smith


If we were to pick Tiger seasons at random and ask you to name the
regular second baseman, the odds are you could name second basemen pretty
well. After all, Charlie Gehringer and Lou Whitaker alone account for 34 of
the Tigers' 98 seasons at second base. Add in eight years from Dick
McAuliffe which are still within most fans' memories, and you've nearly
covered half of the Tigers' history. Indeed, the Tigers have used fewer
regulars at second base than at any other position. That coterie includes,
however, a number of memorable figures, including one Hall of Famer; one of
three Tiger Rookies of the Year; the first major free agent the Tigers
acquired after the Seitz decision in 1976; a man who once hit four home runs
in one game and became the Tigers' first player-manager; one of baseball's
dirtiest players; and one of the most colorful players in baseball history.

The dirty player was Kid Gleason, the first regular second baseman
in Tiger history. Gleason was in the middle of a long, 22 year career when
he jumped from the New York Giants to the outlaw American League in 1901.
Gleason used to trip baserunners, or check them with a hip as they went past
the bag. But, though he stood just 5' 7" and weighed under 160 pounds, he
was tough, and could take retaliation - indeed, he was one of those
ballplayers known for trying to get hit with pitches. Gleason got away with
it in part because he was a genuinely nice guy off the field - players liked

Gleason jumped back to the NL after the 1902 season, and for a year
the job was filled by Heinie Smith, a scrub in his last ML season, and
Germany Long, acquired from Boston in mid-season. Long had been very good
player for many years (he retired with 2145 career hits) but was washed up
by 1903 and finished out his career hitting .222 with Detroit. Thus, in
April of 1904, the Tigers traded for Bobby Lowe. Lowe, who weighed just 150
pounds, is mainly remembered in baseball as the first player ever to hit
four home runs in one game, which he did back in 1893 with the Boston
Braves. Like Long, he was washed up by the time he arrived in Detroit, and
hit just .207 with 17 walks in 140 games. Midway through the season the
Tigers fired manager Ed Barrow, and made Lowe their first player-manager, a
job he filled through the last 74 games of the year. 

Enter Herman "Germany" Schaefer for the 1905 season. To avid Tiger
fans, the name of Germany Schaefer may seem vaguely familiar. First, it's a
distinctive name, the kind you remember. And he was the regular second
baseman on the Tigers' first pennant winners in 1907-08. But Schaefer is
perhaps best remembered for his antics rather than his play. A gregarious
type in his calmest moments, Schaefer is one of the most enthusiastic,
unpredictable players in baseball history. 

Perhaps his most famous stunt is one that I recall reading as a
small boy in one of those "Strange Baseball Stories and Anecdotes" type
books: the time Germany Schaefer stole first base. It came in a 1908 game
against Cleveland. Schaefer was on first, Davy Jones on third, and Sam
Crawford at the plate. Schaefer singled to Jones for a double steal
(players usually called their own plays in those days.) When the pitch
came, Schaefer broke for second, but Cleveland catcher Nig Clarke held the
ball, so Jones remained rooted at third. On the next pitch, Schaefer yelled
to Jones from his new perch at second, "Let's do it again!" and, letting
out a blood-curling yell, Schaefer broke back toward first base, sliding
into the bag. The stunned Clarke, however, again held the ball. So the
Tigers were back to where they'd started, with Schaefer on first and Jones
on third. On the next pitch, however, Schaefer let out another loud whoop
and again broke for second. Clarke, apparently having had enough, finally
threw to second base. Jones broke for home, and both runners were safe.

Another famous 1906 Schaefer incident is recalled by Davy Jones in
"The Glory of Their Times." I'll just use Jones' words, with a bit of

"The next man up was [pitcher Red] Donahue, easily one of the worst
hitters in the league. So Bill Armour, who was managing Detroit then,
looked up and down the bench and spotted Germany Schaefer sitting there -
talking, as usual, to whoever would listen.

"'How would you like to go up there and pinch-hit?' Bill asked

"Meanwhile, Red Donahue is already getting all set in the batter's

"'Hey, Red,' yells Schaefer. The manager wants me to hit for you.'

"'What' Red roars. 'Who the hell are you to hit for me?' And he
slams his bat down...

"Well, Schaefer walked out there and just as he was about to step
into the batter's box he stopped, took off his cap, and faced the
grandstand. 'Ladies and gentlemen,' he announced, 'you are now looking at
Herman Schaefer, better known as Herman the Great, acknowledged by one and
all to be the greatest pinch hitter in the world. I am now going to hit the
ball into the left field bleachers. Thank you.'

"Then he turned around and stepped into the batters box.... he never
hit over 2 or 3 home runs in his life [Schaefer finished his career with 9
HRs in 3873 ABs -ed.]. But by golly, on the second ball Doc White pitched
he did exactly what he said he would: he hit it right smack into the
left-field bleachers.

"You should have seen him. He stood at that plate until the ball
cleared the fence, and then he jumped straight up in the air, tore down to
first base as fast as his legs would carry him, and proceeded to slide head
first into the bag. After that he jumped up, yelled 'Schaefer leads at the
quarter!' and started for second.

"He slid into second - yelled 'Schaefer leads at the half' - and
continued the same way into third and then home. After he slid into home...
he brushed himself off, took off his cap, and walked over to the grandstand
again. 'Ladies and gentlemen,' he said, 'I thank you for your kind

The talkative Schaefer was everybody's friend, even Ty Cobb's, and
it was Schaefer who accompanied Cobb to a quack doctor who extracted Cobb's
tonsils without anesthesia in 1906 (Cobb played ball that night - talk about
a tough guy!). Schaefer was the starter on the 1907-08 World Champs,
although Red Downs also saw considerable playing time and Schaefer played
much of the '08 season at shortstop. He was traded with pitcher Red
Killefer for Jim Delahanty during the 1909 season, and finished his career
in 1918 with Cleveland. He died in May, 1919, at age 42 - I don't know the
cause of death.

Delahanty, from the famous baseball family that produced Hall of
Famer Ed, manned the second sack for the pennant drive in 1909 and then in
1910. In 1911, Delahanty played a lot of first base, splitting the second
base work with Charley O'Leary, and in 1912 Delahanty played a lot of
outfield, splitting work at second with Baldy Louden. One of Ernie
Harwell's favorites, Ozzie Vitt, took over in 1913, and in 1914 Marty
Kavanaugh held the job. 

In 1915, Ralph Young restored stability to the second base slot. I
know absolutely nothing about Ralph Young except for the statistical record.
Young must have had something going for him - he would be the Tigers'
regular second baseman for seven seasons, through 1921. He rarely hit or
slugged at or above the league norm, but except for an awful 1918 season,
when he hit .188 and led the league in errors, he never hit too much below
the league average, either. He had no power (4 career HRs) but walked some,
usually 50-60 times a season, with a high of 85 in 1920. He once stole as
many as 20 bases in a season, but just as often stole in single digits.
>From this mediocre offensive record, you might think he was a good defensive
player to hold the position for seven years, but I don't think that's true.
Of course, we don't have many good fielding stats from those years, but he
never led the league in any positive fielding stat of the time, and was
usually in the bottom half in the league in fielding percentage and total
chances per game (which I usually figure is about the best statistical
indicator of range for the period, though it's obviously inflated or cut by
the type of pitching staff). I think, overall, he was a guy sort of like
Tom Brookens in the 1980s - the Tigers just never had anyone better, and
Young was just good enough to keep his slot. 

Young was finally replaced in 1922 by George Cutshaw, who held down
the fort for one year, and then in 1923 by Fred "Pudge" Haney, who was
really a third baseman playing out of position. Haney split time with Del
Pratt, a fine player nearing the end of the line, and Pratt played regularly
in 1924 as Haney moved back to third. Pratt hit .310 and .303 in his two
Tiger seasons, closing out his career, but remember that the league average
by then was up around .290. Frank O'Rourke, a journeyman picked up on
waivers from Boston after the 1922 season, played regularly in 1925 and had
a career year, hitting .293 with a .436 slugging average. The next year,
Charlie Gehringer won the job in spring. 

Charlie Gehringer is easily the greatest Tiger second baseman, and
one of the best ever at the position. I see no need to recount his career
in detail here, but we can mention a few highlights. He won the batting
title and MVP in 1937, led the league in runs twice, in stolen bases once,
in triples once, in doubles twice, and in hits twice. His number are
inflated by playing in the high offense 1930s, but even when placed in that
context, they're impressive. He scored 100+ runs 12 times, drove in 100 runs
seven times. His career .320 average is augmented by a career .398 OBP and
.480 slugging. One impressive thing about Gehringer as a player is that he
showed steady, broad improvement throughout his career. His career high BA
went from .277 in 1926, to .317 (1927); to .320 (1928); to .339 (1929); to
.356 (1934); to .371 in 1937. His career high in home runs rose from 1 to 4
to 6 to 13 to 16 over his first five years, then to 19 in 1932 and to 20 in
1938. His career high in doubles went from 19 (1926) to 29 (1927) to 45
(1929) to 47 (1930) to 50 (1934) to 60 (1936). His walks slowly increased
from 30 as a rookie, to between 64 and 69 each year from 1928 to 1933
(except for 1931, when he missed 50 games due to injury) to a career high of
112 in 1938, by which time he was routinely walking 80-100 times a year.
Such sustained, broad growth as a player is relatively rare, especially for
one playing at such a high performance level from day one. Gehringer was
also a big game player, hitting .500 in six All-Star games and .379 and .375
in the 1934 and 35 World Series., However, he did have a poor series in
1940, by which time he was 37 years old and nearing the end. His last
season as a regular was 1941, and he closed out his career as a pinch hitter
in 1942, leading the league in pinch hits. "The Mechanical Man" as he was
called, was also a fine defensive player, and an easy Hall of Fame selection
in 1949.

As I noted, Gehringer's totals are inflated by having played in the
1930s. He was not as good as the very best second basemen ever - Lajoie,
Collins, probably Joe Morgan and Rogers Hornsby - but he is close on the
heels of that group, and is a Hall of Famer of the first rank.

In the 1941-42 off-season, the Tigers traded for Jimmy Bloodworth,
the regular second baseman for the Senators. Bloodworth was a passable, if
unexceptional, player for the 1942-43 seasons, hitting .242 and .241 (close
to the league average), not too many walks, and slugging averages .362 and
.344, about 10 points better than league. Bloodworth went off to war before
the 1944 season. 

To replace Bloodworth, the Tigers signed 34 year old Eddie Mayo, a
classic war-time player. After a couple seasons as a backup infielder for
the Giants and Braves in 1936-37, Mayo had been relegated to the minors for
several years, before the Athletics made him their regular second baseman in
1943. Even against wartime competition, though, Mayo was pretty bad,
hitting .219/.271/.244. He was released after the season, and the desperate
Tigers signed him. Mayo ended up playing in all 154 games in 1944, and
played better than ever before (.249/.313/.313), which wasn't saying a whole
lot. However, in 1985, Mayo turned in a career year, hitting
.285/.348/.405, very good numbers for a middle infielder at a time when the
league BA was .255 and the league slugging was just .346. Mayo's average,
in fact, was 11th best in the league, as were his whopping 10 HRs, and he
was recognized as the sparkplug on the Tiger's pennant winning team. He
also led the league's second basemen in fielding percentage. The Sporting
News even named him Player of the Year. But Bloodworth came back in '46,
and when left-handed hitting Mayo got off to a slow start he soon found
himself platooned with Bloodworth. Bloodworth was sold after the season,
however, and Mayo, given the full-time job again, responded with a solid
1947 season, hitting .279/.338/.379, all numbers well above the league
averages, and finishing second in fielding percentage, still the primary
defensive stat at the time. But Mayo's performance slipped again in 1948
(.249/.305/.324), and at age 38, his career ended. It's an interesting
little career - in his twenties, Eddie Mayo was barely good enough to play a
couple seasons as a back-up infielder, and normally that would have been it.
But thanks to the war, he got a reprieve in his mid-thirties, and was, at
least briefly, recognized as one of the best players in the game. And
though in his late thirties, he was then able to maintain regular status for
3 years after the good ballplayers returned from the fighting. Mayo played
in two World Series (1945 with Detroit, and 1936 with the Giants), more
than, say, Al Kaline or Lou Whitaker or Alan Trammell. Many other
ballplayers should be so lucky.


After wartime second baseman Eddie Mayo finally retired at the close
of 1948, Norm Berry and Don Kolloway platooned at second in 1949. Before
1950, the Tigers traded relief pitcher Lou Kretlow and cash to the Browns
for Gerry Priddy. Priddy was already 30 years old but had played quite well
for the Browns the prior two years, hitting in the .290s, drawing 80+ walks,
and slugging well over .400. Priddy was regarded as one of the league's
best defensive second basemen as well, regularly leading the league in the
categories of putouts, assists, and chances per game. Priddy delivered a
fine season for the 1950 Tigers, the last Tiger team to compete for a
pennant until 1961. He hit .277 with 13 HRs and 104 runs scored, slugging
over .400 while drawing 95 walks for a .370 OBP. Defensively, he led the
league in Assists, Total Chances, Chances per Game, and double plays. But
few ballplayers remained effective past age 30 in those days, and Priddy
declined to .260/.336/.360 in 1951, although defensively he again led the
league in putouts, assists, chances, and double plays (Priddy played before
Gold Gloves and range factors, but the fact that he regularly led the lead
in putouts, assists, and total chances, with each of three different clubs,
leads me to believe he had excellent range. He ranks among the all-time
leaders in chances per game.) 

Early in 1952, Priddy was off to a very good start when he was
injured. The Tigers pulled off a 9 player trade that sent George Kell, Dizzy
Trout, Hoot Evers, and Johnny Lipon - four pretty good players all past
their primes - to the Red Sox for Walt Dropo, Johnny Pesky, and three
others. Pesky then platooned with rookie Al Federoff and, after his
recovery, Priddy. For Priddy, it was a good season, albeit a 75 game one.
He hit .283/.376/.430. But he tailed off badly in 1953 (.235/.295/.301),
when he platooned with Pesky, and he retired at year's end. Pesky, the
one-time Red Sox star, had his last good season in 1953, hitting
.292/.358/.390, and was traded early in 1954, his last big league season.
Whitey Federoff, a 28 year old rookie in 1952, never played in the majors

The Tigers opened the 1954 season with Frank Bolling, a 22 year old
rookie from Mobile, Alabama, in the second base slot. Bolling had an
unexceptional rookie year, hitting .236 in 117 games, and then did not play
at all in 1955, when Fred Hatfield was the regular. I have done some
looking but have not discovered why Bolling did not play in 1955. He played
just 117 games in '53 and 102 in '55. Was it a serious injury? Military
service? Sent back to the minors? I thought it would be easy to discover
but in no discussion I've found of Bolling's career does it say why he
missed 1955. In any event, Bolling returned to the line-up in 1956 and for
several years was a good, consistent player. He had some power, averaging
13 home runs a year from 1957-1960, drew about 50 walks a season, usually
hit in the .260 range (from 1956 through 1965, his last season as a regular,
he hit .281; .259; .269; .266; .254; .262; .271; .244; .199 - whu
happened??; and .264.). In his better years he would slug over .400. He
was a good defensive player, twice leading the AL in fielding percentage,
and twice leading the NL after being traded to Milwaukee. Indeed, when
Bolling was traded to Milwaukee after the 1960 season, a headline in Sport
magazine asked "Can Bolling and McMillan [SS Roy, also acquired by Milwaukee
that year] bring Milwaukee the pennant?" (Bolling made the NL All-Star
squads in both '61 and '62, but alas, he didn't bring them the pennant). So
he was well regarded.

The trade that sent Bolling to Milwaukee was, on the whole, a good
one for the Tigers. They gave up Bolling and Neil Chrisley, a 29 year old
reserve outfielder, for Billy Bruton, Dick Brown, Terry Fox and Chuck
Cottier, a 24 year old second baseman. Cottier was traded to Washington
early in 1961; Brown gave the Tigers a couple of serviceable years at
catcher before Bill Freehan's arrival in 1963; Bruton did the same in the
outfield, and he and Brown were both important in the 1961 team's success;
Fox became Detroit's first real relief "ace," and is still 6th on the
all-time Tiger list for saves (Henneman, Hiller, Hernandez, Lopez, Jones,
Fox). Bolling's spot was filled by a promising 23 year old, Jake Wood. 

Wood's rookie season showed promise, as he played in all 162 games,
stole 30 bases (3rd in league) and hit a league leading 14 triples. But Wood
was unable to build on that season. He struggled in 1962, opening the door
for another promising second year man, Dick McAuliffe, to move from back-up
duty at third and short to play 70 games at second. Wood bounced back in
1963, however, allowing the Tigers to trade shortstop Chico Fernandez and
move McAuliffe to short. Wood hit .271 with a career high .407 slugging
average in '63, and for the third straight year was third in the league in
stolen bases. Still, the Tigers weren't satisfied with Wood, who was also a
poor defensive player, and acquired second baseman Jerry Lumpe in the
off-season. Wood stayed on as a decent utility man until sold to Cincinnati
early in 1967. 

Jerry Lumpe came to Detroit from Kansas City along with pitcher Dave
Wickersham, as the key players in the Rocky Colavito trade. Lumpe was a
journeyman in the best sense of the word. He started as a back-up infielder
for the Yankees in the mid-1950s (hitting as high as .340 in that role),
then got a chance to start after a 1959 trade to the Athletics. In five
years as the A's regular 2B, he hit .241; .272; .293; .301; and .271, while
slugging as high as .432. He had a bit of pop in the bat, hitting as many
as 10 homers, 10 triples, and 34 doubles at times, and drawing about 50
walks a year, not a lot but more than the free swinging Wood. In the field,
Lumpe had limited range but was sure, consistantly putting up fielding
percentages near the league's best, as high as .991 in 1966. He even made
the All Star in 1964, his first year with the Tigers, although he never hit
as well for Detroit as he had for KC. Lumpe lost his starting job after
1966, and finished up his career with one final season as the Tigers'
utility infielder. 

Dick McAuliffe, who had been playing shortstop full-time since the
1963 season, was moved over to second in 1967, with defensive whiz Ray Oyler
taking over at short. McAuliffe was a fine two-way ballplayer, in my mind
one of the unsung stars of the mid-1960s. Current Tiger management could
take a lesson from McAuliffe. McAuliffe struck out a lot (as many as 118
times a year), and he stole fewer bases over the course of his 16 year
career than Brian Hunter did in 1997 alone. Nevertheless, from 1964 through
1970 he was clearly the best lead-off man in the American League.
McAuliffe's batting averages weren't too high, but they were very good for
the time and league he played in. McAuliffe's .249 BA in 1968 was 19
points better than league. His .262 in 1969 was 16 points better. His .274
in 1966 was 34 points above the league average. So his averages were good,
in context. More important to his success, he augmented this by drawing
walks, twice drawing more than 100 bases on balls in an era when few fans,
broadcasters, or management types paid any attention to the walk column.
And he hit with power, putting up a career .403 slugging average, extremely
good for a second baseman playing in the mid-1960s. For example, his .509
slugging average in 1966, his best season, was 5th in the league. He hit 23
home runs that year (not his best total); Bobby Knoop, California's second
baseman, hit 17 (the only season in double figures in his career), but had
an OBP and slugging average more than 100 points lower than McAuliffe; the
remaining eight regular second basemen in the league hit a combined 39 home

McAuliffe's career OBP was .343, which doesn't exactly bowl you
over, but again, let's put it in context. For several years in which
McAuliffe played in the mid-sixties, the league OBP was below .300. Here
are McAuliffe's OBP and slugging averages during his prime, from 1964
through 1970:

Yr. OBP Slg. OPS
64 .334 .427 .761
65 .342 .433 .775
66 .373 .509 .882
67 .364 .411 .775
68 .344 .411 .755
69 .369 .458 .827
70 .358 .345 .703

As you can see, in 1970 he began to lose much of his power. But
let's take what is otherwise his lowest year in the group, 1968. Here are
OBPs and slugging averages for the league's second basemen in 1968:

Team Player OBP Slg. OPS
Det McAuliffe .344 .411 .755
Balt. Johnson .303 .359 .662
Clev. Fuller .309 .291 .600
Bos. Andrews .366 .354 .720
NY Clarke .259 .254 .513
Oak. Donaldson .306 .273 .579
Min. Carew .312 .347 .659
Cal. Knoop .298 .324 .622
Chi. Alomar .292 .287 .579
Wash. Allen .294 .343 .637

As you can see, McAuliffe, having what was probably his worst year during
the period, dominates the league's second basemen as an offensive force,
with only Mike Andrews really even coming within shouting range. And if that
.344 OBP doesn't blow you away, let's look at the OBPs of the league's lead
off hitters:

Team Player OBP
Balt. Buford .366
Clev. Harper .295; Cardenal, .303
Bos. Andrews .366
NY Clarke .259
Oak. Campaneris .328 (one of the best years of his
Min. Tovar .310
Cal. Davalillo .302; Alomar .292
Chi. Aparicio .300
Wash. Unser .281

Is it any wonder that Detroit, Boston and Baltimore finished 1-2-3 in runs
scored? And McAuliffe, having that sub-par year, led the league in runs
scored. Just in case you're wondering, only one NL lead-off man, Pete Rose,
put up a higher OBP than Mac. Lou Brock, uniformly (and erroneously, due to
Rose's presence) considered the best lead-off man in the NL, had an OBP of
.325. Some other NL lead off men included Willie Davis (.284); Tommy Agee
(.248); and Cookie Rojas (.251). In short, in the context of the day, Dick
McAuliffe was a fine player, the league's best second baseman and best lead
off hitter. I don't want to make McAuliffe out to be a great player - he
was not. But as an offensive player, I would not rate him much behind, say,
Joe Gordon and Bobby Doerr. He was a solid defensive player, but not their
equal with the glove. 

McAuliffe, BTW, was also a fighter - his most famous bout being a
1968 altercation with Tommy John that broke, I think, John's arm, and gave
McAuliffe a 10 game suspension. McAuliffe was also known for his odd
batting stance, a sort of modified Mel Ott stance with one foot firmly in
the bucket.

McAuliffe was slipping by 1970, so early in the 1971 season the
Tigers picked up Tony Taylor from the Phillies for two minor leaguers, Mike
Fremuth and Carl Cavanaugh, who never saw action in the majors. The
right-handed hitting Taylor platooned with lefty McAuliffe for the next
three years and played well, hitting .287 and .303 in 1971-72, and topping a
.400 slugging average the latter year. McAuliffe continued to be an
offensive threat, hitting 18 homers in 1971. In 1973, at age 33, McAuliffe
turned in a fine season, equaling his career high in BA (.274) while putting
up a .366 OBP and .437 slugging average, his highest marks since 1969. The
Tigers wisely traded McAuliffe on that high note, skinning the Red Sox for
young Ben Oglivie. McAuliffe had the worst year of his career with the
Bosox in 1974, and was released early in the 1975 season, ending a fine
career that had begun with 8 games in September of 1960. 

Gary Sutherland was acquired from Houston in the off-season and
filled the job in 1974-75, hitting some singles and, during consecutive last
place finishes, giving manager Ralph Houk one of the few players he could
count on to be in the line-up on a daily basis, even if Sutherland wasn't
much good. Early in 1976, Sutherland was traded to Milwaukee for Pedro
Garcia, a smart trade as Garcia was six years younger, if nothing else. As
a rookie in 1973, Garcia had showed some promise, hitting .245 but showing
some power with 15 homers and a league leading 32 doubles. But he couldn't
build on that campaign. His play deteriorated, and by the time he reached
Detroit he was just trying to save his career. I have fond memories of
Pedro because my buddies and I sort of adopted him that year - we would
cheer wildly whenever Pedro came to the plate, and I attended a few dozen
Tiger games that summer, more than in any other year. Pedro sucked, though,
no doubt, and I recall one game where we had to do some fast talking to
avoid getting beat up after cheering wildly for Pedro and then having him
almost cost Mark Fidrych the game by dropping a popup in the 8th or 9th
inning. Anyway, Pedro couldn't save his career - he hit just .198, and was
released after the season. 

Well, the Tigers looked around and saw no one to play second base.
19 year old Lou Whitaker showed promise, but was still in the lower minors.
And so the Tigers signed their first free agent of the modern, post Andy
Messersmith free agent era. He was Tito Fuentes, and the Tigers signed him
for one year at$90,000. I blame Tito Fuentes in some small way for the
Brick Bartee fiasco of recent years. You see, Fuentes came up with the
Giants in 1966 as a right-handed hitter, and had a pretty good rookie year,
but slumped badly in 1967, hitting just .209. So in 1968, at age 24, he was
sent to the minors to learn to pinch hit. And low and behold, it actually
worked. Fuentes returned to San Francisco and hit .295. Thus Fuentes is
one of those exceptions that sucker future GMs into bucking the rule. 

Fuentes was typical of many middle infielders, then and now. He
could hit a bit; he rarely walked; he was acrobatic in the field and had
good range, but made more than his share of errors; he had some speed on the
basepaths, but not as much as you always sort of thought. But he turned out
to be the most pleasant surprise, perhaps, of a lackluster 1977 campaign,
playing in 151 games and hitting .309. Fuentes was no fool. He would be 34
before the '78 season, and he was coming off the best year of his career.
The Tigers had no second baseman of note ahead of Whitaker, who had played
less than a full season at AA. This was Fuentes only chance for big
dollars, and Tito demanded a multi-year deal at a substantial increase in
pay. But the Tigers made a wise gamble; they decided not to resign Fuentes;
they picked up journeyman Steve Dillard to cover the spot if Whitaker
flopped, and they stuck Whitaker in the line-up to start the 1978 season.
Fuentes signed with Oakland, hitting .140 in 13 games and closing out his

Of course, we know what happened for the Tigers. I assume everybody
on this list has at least some familiarity with Lou Whitaker. The only real
question, to me, then, is does Lou belong in the Hall of Fame? Whitaker has
some of the intangibles that can give a player a minor boost towards the
Hall: he played all of his career for one team; he is part of the longest
running double play combo, and indeed teammates, in major league history,
and his partner has equally impressive credentials; for several years in
the mid-1980s, he was recognized as the best player at his position in the
league; he never won an MVP, but he won minor awards - a Rookie of the Year
and multiple Gold Gloves. Here are some of Whitaker's career stats versus
those of second basemen already in the Hall, likely to be enshrined, or
generally discussed as candidates for the Hall. Those in the Hall are
listed above Lou; those not in the Hall are listed below Lou.

Player BA OBP Slg. H 2B 3B HR R RBI BB
Carew .328 .394 .429 3053 445 112 92 1424 1015 1018 353
Collins .333 .420 .429 3313 438 187 47 1820 1300 1503 743
Doerr .288 .361 .461 2042 381 89 223 1094 1247 809 54
Evers .270 .352 .334 1658 216 70 12 919 538 778
Fox .288 .340 .363 2663 355 112 35 1279 790 719
Frisch .316 .367 .432 2880 466 138 105 1532 1244 728 419
Gehringer .320 .398 .480 2839 574 146 184 1774 1427 1185 182
Herman .304 .365 .407 2345 486 82 47 1163 839 737
Hornsby .358 .431 .577 2930 541 169 301 1579 1584 1038 135
Lajoie .338 .372 .466 3244 658 161 83 1503 1599 516
Lazzeri .292 .378 .467 1840 334 115 178 986 1191 870
Morgan .271 .393 .427 2517 449 96 268 1650 1133 1865 659
Robinson .311 .402 .474 1518 273 54 137 947 734 740
Schoendist .289 .336 .387 2449 427 78 84 1223 773 606

WHITAKER .276 .365 .426 2369 420 65 244 1386 1084 1197 143
Sandberg .286 .346 .454 2268 377 76 270 1264 997 733
Grich .266 .366 .424 1833 320 47 224 1033 864 1087
White .255 .292 .383 2006 407 58 160 912 886 412
Mazeroski .260 .296 .367 2016 294 62 138 769 853 447
Gordon .268 .354 .466 1530 264 52 253 914 975 759
Doyle .290 .352 .408 1887 299 123 74 960 793 625
Myer .303 .386 .406 2131 353 130 38 1174 850 965
Pratt .292 .341 .403 1996 392 117 43 850 966
513 246
Randolph .276 .372 .351 2210 316 65 54 1239 687 1243

It's tough to compare these numbers briefly, because these players played in
wildly different eras; nevertheless, Lou's raw career totals are pretty
good. Of those not in the Hall that I listed (I thought of everyone I could
who had some type of reasonable claim to the honor) I think it's tough to
argue that any save Sandberg and Gordon are more deserving. And I was
surprised how well Lou stacks up against them. Sandberg, his contemporary,
was definitely considered a better player, as indicated by his two MVPs.
But Lou had a longer career, which has to count for something (he is third
all time in games played at second, after Collins and Morgan), and actually
put up a higher career OBP. And were Ryne's numbers inflated by Wrigley
Field? Besides, Sandberg is a good bet to go to the Hall. Gordon was a
very good player, but again, Lou has a higher OBP and was better much
longer, though Gordon did lose two years to military service. Grich is
almost an exact match for Lou, except that Lou, once again, has the
equivalent of about 3 years of solid ball more than Grich. Maz is the great
glove man, but Lou has such a substantial offensive advantage that I think
clearly puts him ahead of Maz (all these guys, save Carew, were pretty good
glove men). So Lou is basically as good a candidate as any 2B not in the
Hall, meaning he ought to be considered.

Compared to those in the Hall, Lou is not up there with the best,
but he's better than several - his numbers certainly don't look out of
place, especially when you adjust down the 1930s inflated numbers of Herman,
Frisch, Lazzeri, and Gehringer. Then remember that Carew actually played
more than half his career at first base, and is the one sub-par defensive
player in the group. Since 1975, the second basemen inducted have been
Billy Herman (1975), Bobby Doerr (1986), Red Schoendist (1989), Joe Morgan
(1990), Rod Carew (1991), Tony Lazzeri (1991), and Nellie Fox (1996). I
would rate Lou ahead of Herman, Schoendist, Lazzeri, and Fox, about even
with Carew and Doerr (after discounting Carew for 10 years at first base).
He is no where near Joe Morgan's equal, nor that of some of the other
earlier enshrinees, such as Gehringer. Is that enough? I suppose it
depends on how tough you think entry ought to be.

Anyway, let's wrap up our story. Whitaker was largely platooned his
last few years, with Tony Phillips, Chris Gomez, and Scott Fletcher logging
significant time at second in various years between 1991 and 1995. After
Whitaker retired at the close of the '95 season, Mark Lewis, acquired in
trade during the off-season, took over the job for 1996, and had a solid
year. However, late that season the Tigers picked up oft-injured Damion
Easley for fading prospect Greg Gohr, and Easley has since blossomed into
one of the league's top second basemen. The Tigers seem set on Easley
remaining with club, and certainly he has done nothing to deserve to lose
his job. However, with a promising young player, Frank Catalanotto, behind
him, many Tiger fans can envision Easley as material for trade, even if
current GM Randy Smith cannot.

As I noted, at the outset of Part I of this post, the Tigers have
used fewer regulars at second base than at any other position. On three
occasions - with Gehringer, McAuliffe, and Whitaker - they have had a player
widely recognized as the best in the league at the position. Several other
solid players - notably Frank Bolling, but also Gerry Priddy, Jerry Lumpe,
Germany Schaefer, Ralph Young, and Eddie Mayo - have made this position a
relatively stable and successful one for Detroit. With Easley and
Catalanotto, there is little reason to think instability looms at the
position any time soon. 


Hall of Fame: Charlie Gehringer

MVP: Charlie Gehringer, 1937

Rookie of the Year: Lou Whitaker, 1978

Gold Gloves: Frank Bolling, 1958
Lou Whitaker, 1983, 1984, 1985

All Star Selections: Charlie Gehringer, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937,
Jerry Lumpe, 1964
Dick McAuliffe, 1967
Lou Whitaker, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986
Damion Easley, 1998


1. Charlie Gehringer 	1. Charlie Gehringer
2. Lou Whitaker 		2. Lou Whitaker
3. Dick McAuliffe 		3. Dick McAuliffe
4. Damion Easley 		4. Frank Bolling
5. Frank Bolling 		5. Eddie Mayo

The first two picks for peak value are easy, as are the first four
for career value. Easley has had two fine seasons and could challenge
McAuliffe in peak value: Easley's raw stats are clearly better, but without
attempting to do some sophisticated analysis of runs created versus league,
etc., I just sense from the data, and my perception, that McAuliffe was a
more valuable offensive player from 1967-69 than Damion Easley has been in
1997-98. I'd rate their defense a wash. The fifth pick in that category
was tough - you could go with Eddie Mayo on the strength of his 1945 season,
or with Gerry Priddy or even Germany Schaefer. The final pick for career
value was also something of pick 'em: I went with Mayo, but except for 1945
Mayo wasn't that good, and you could choose Ralph Young for pure longevity.
Give Easley a couple more good years with Detroit and he'll solve that

Bradley A. Smith Phone: (614) 236-6676
Associate Professor Fax: (614)236-6956
Capital University Law School e-mail:
303 E. Broad St.
Columbus, OH 43215

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