Saturday, January 17, 2015

Happy Baseball Birthday. .. Mayo Smith

Today's Happy Baseball Birthday is former big league ballplayer and manager Mayo Smith.

Edward Mayo Smith was born on January 17, 1915, in New London, Missouri.

When I saw it was Mayo's birthday today, I wanted to make a post because,  as a fan of the Detroit Tigers,  Mayo has a special place in our hearts.

Mayo Smith became the Tigers manager in 1966 after the two previous Detroit skippers, Charlie Dressen, and Bob Swift, passed away within two months of each other.

Mayo took over the Tigers after the '66 season, and made an immediate impact by moving Dick McAulffe, the starting shortstop, to second base, inserting Ray Oyler, to shortstop.

The 1967 Tigers were in the American League pennant race until the final day, losing out to the Boston Red Sox.

The 1968 Detroit Tigers are my favorite baseball team.

Mayo Smith led the '68 Tigers to a 103-59 record, the American League Pennant, and the World Series Championship.

I was 8 years other Tigers team, not even the 1984 Tigers, will ever overtake that '68 ballclub for me.

Al Kaline, Denny McLain, Mickey Lolich, Jim Northrup, Mickey Stanley, Willie Horton, Norm Cash, Dick McAulffe, and Bill Freehan, they were my guys, especially Freehan, still my favorite ballplayer ever.

Mayo Smith made a decision with just a few weeks left, a un heard of move, a move that helped make the Tigers champions.

Al Kaline, the Tigers Gold Glove outfielder,  had been waiting for 15 years to play in the World Series, and Mayo had to figure out how to use all four of the team's terrific hitting outfielders, Horton, Northrup, Stanley, and Kaline, in the upcoming Fall Classic.

Mayo moved Stanley, a Gold Glove centerfielder,  to shortstop, preparing Mickey for the series vs the St. Louis Cardinals, replacing starting shortstop Ray Oyler, who was just a .135 hitter.

The move, highly criticized by the media, was brilliant, as Stanley started all 7 games, making only 2 errors vs the Cardinals.

Kaline hit .379 in the series, Northrup hit agrand slam hone run in Game 6, and tripled in Horton with the winning run in Game 7 vs legendary Cardinals pitcher Bob Gibson. 

The Tigers were World Series Champions for the first time since 1945.

Mayo Smith was redeemed.

Mayo's baseball career was now stamped with a championship,  something he had dreamed if since he started playing proffessional baseball at the age of 18 with the Double-A Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League.

Mayo played in the minors into the 1940's, even playing for the Tigers farm club, the Rule 5 draft by the Philadelphia Athletics in 1944.

On June 24, 1945, just as World War II was ending in the Pacific theatre, Lake Worth, Florida High School's own,  Edward Mayo Smith made his big league debut fir the Philadelphia Athletics.

Mayo played 73 games in 1946, batting .212, with 43 hits, 5 doubles, 11 RBI, in 203 at bats.

1945 was all the big league playing time for Mayo, who started managing in the minors, first, for the New York Yankees, from 1949-54.

In 1955 Mayo Smith managed the Philadelphia Phillies, and the team finished 77-77.

The Phillies struggled to a 71-83 record in '56, back to 77-77 in '57, and after a 39-45 record,  Mayo was dismissed by the Phillies on July 22, 1958.

Mayo was hired to manage the Cincinnati Reds for the 1959 season.

After a 35-45 record, the Reds fired Mayo on July 8, 1959.

Mayo scouted for the Yankees from 1959-66, before taking ovetas the Detroit manager.

After the 1968 championship team, the 1969 Detroit Tigers had another terrific year, going 90-72.

Unfortunately 90 wins still resulted in a second place finish, a distant 19 games behind eventual American League champion Baltimire Orioles.

In 1970 the Tigers struggled to a 79-83 record,  29 games behind the eventual World Series Championship Orioles.

Mayo was dismissed by the Tigers on October 2, 1970.

In 9 years as a big league manager, with the Phillies, Reds, and Tigers, Mayo compiled a 662-612 (.520) record, managed a 2 time Cy Young Award and MVP winner in Denny McLain, and won a World Series Championship in 1968.

Mayo Smith passed away from a stroke on November 24, 1977, in Boyton Beach, Florida, at the age of 62.

In 1983 a group of Detroit Tigers fans created the Mayo Smith Society, and since 2004 it has awarded the "King Tiger Award"  to the best player on the team.

Mayo Smith managed the Tigers for only 3 1/2 years,  yet to me, he's probably my favorite of all the Tigers skippers, right up there with Jim Leyland and Sparky Anderson.

Happy Baseball Birthday Mayo!!


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