The Hot Corner

OK Tiger fans, Gregg is taking this week off (although he is editing my piece). I am breaking down third basemen into two categories. I am starting with the four candidates for best single season for a Tiger third baseman. Then I will list several other third basemen that I remember and interesting tidbits, just for yucks.


George Kell – Tiger favorite and All Star. Hall of Fame. Younger Tiger fans will remember him as a broadcaster with Ernie and Al.

Kell was a 10 time All Star, batted over .300 - 9 times, and led the American League in fielding percentage 7 times. Kell’s finest season was 1949. In that year he led the American League in hitting with .343 average. On the last day of the season he hit better than Ted Williams, taking the Triple Crown away from Ted.

Don Wert “#8”. Was nicknamed Coyote. Played for the Tigers from 1963-70. Never known as a good hitter, but was one helluva fielder. His best season was 1965 when he played all 162 games. He led the American League with a .976 fielding percentage. 1965 was the only year in the 60’s in which Brooks Robinson did not lead the American League in fielding.

Auerilo Rodriguez was with the Tigers from 1971 – 1979. One of the Detroit sports writers nicknamed Rodriguez as the “original A-rod.” His finest season was 1975 in which he won the Gold Glove Award, the first third baseman to beat out Brooks Robinson since 1959. Funny thing about Rodriguez – in 1969 his baseball card did not have his picture, but had the picture of the Angels batboy, Leonard Garcia.

Brandon Inge started with the Tigers in 2001. His real first name is Charles (what a name!). A fan favorite who has played at third, catcher, and in the outfield. Not known for his hitting – did poorly in the Home run derby last year. Was honored to be an All Star in 2009. His finest season was 2006 in which he had 398 assists, setting a Tiger record. The all time record for third base assists was set by Craig Nettles in 1971; Inge was only 14 short of that record.

Honorable mentions

Tommy Brookens – returning this year as a coach. Very popular. In 1980 he had four errors in one game and led the league in errors. On August 20, 1980 he went 5 for 5 and started a triple play.

Travis Fryman was here from 1990-97. I hated it when he was traded to Cleveland.

Marty Castillo played third and caught. Was with Tigers from 1981-85. Could not be located for the reunion last year of the ‘84 Tigers.

Dean Palmer 1999-2003 – won Silver Slugger in 1999. Career shortened by injuries.

Darrell Evans 1984-88. First player to hit 40 homeruns in both leagues. First player to hit 100 home runs with three different teams. He hit 60 home runs when he was in his 40’s. When I worked for St. Vincent de Paul, he donated a washer to the charity and gave the helper on the truck an autographed ball. The helper asked for a second ball for my son and Evans was happy to oblige – my son lost the ball.

Tony Phillips (Tony the Tiger), with the Tigers from 1990-94. Led the AL with walks in 1993 with 132. Only player in history to have 100 or more hits, walks, runs, and strikeouts in the same season, but he also hit less than 10 home runs in the same season.

Ray Boone was a third from 1953-55. His son Bob played major league ball, as did his grandsons, Aaron and Brett.

Tommy Matchik 1967-69

Howard Johnson 1982-84 – excelled with the Mets. When we traded him to the Mets we got Walt Terrell.

Ozzie Virgil 1958-61. Was first non-white player on the Tigers. Went 5 for 5 in his first game with the Tigers on June 6, l958.

Steve Boros quiet man in 1961 he played din 116 games, hit .270 and 62 rbis.

Eddie Yost 1959-60 walked a lot 1614 walks in career, 11th place on list.

Darnell Coles 1986-87. Career high of 20 home runs. I attended a game in which he was so frustrated that when he came out to play third at the top of an inning, he threw the ball out of the stadium and was ejected from the game.

Enos Cabell 1982-83. In 1986 with another team was convicted of cocaine abuse. Was suspended for a season, but avoided suspension by doing community service and making anti-drug donation.

Tory Lovullo 1988-89. Sparky dubbed him the next Brooks Robinson and his career went down hill form there.

Eddie Matthews ended his career here in 1968.

(Note from The Commissioner - Thanks for a wonderful ballot, Chuck. Anybody want to write the right field ballot for next week?)


  1. Great writing Chuck. Shame on me for thinking of you as a great bar tender and Burger Captain. A real renaissance man. (Jueff, how do you spell renaissance?) This might be out toughest election yet. Can't make up my mind, and I've seen three of the four play.

  2. I'd give it to Kell because of the batting crown, and he only missed leading the league in fielding percentage by a third baseman that year by .002. The only possible criticism of him would be that he had almost no power, but hey, nobody does everything.
    A-Rod the first comes in a close second. He really was a treat to watch in the field, and a very good hitter.
    Wert was a good fielder, but no stick.