A Coyote in Tiger’s Clothes

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Don Wert

The Detroit Tigers were solid at third base from 1964 through the rest of the decade, once that position was taken over by the slick-fielding Don Wert.

A solid defensive player throughout his career, Don Wert’s best season at the plate came in 1966. He batted .268 with 20 doubles, 11 home runs and 70 RBIs.

Nicknamed “Coyote,” Wert was signed by the Tigers in 1958. He found his way to the major league roster in 1963, when he batted .259 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs in 78 games.

Wert replaced Bubba Phillips as the Tigers’ everyday third baseman in 1964, batting .257 with nine home runs and 55 RBIs. He led the American League by playing in all 162 games in 1965, batting .261 with 54 runs batted in. He also led all American League third basemen with a .976 fielding percentage that season. He finished tenth in the voting for American League Most Valuable Player.

In 1966, Wert had his best season at the plate. He batted .268 with 20 doubles, 11 home runs and 70 RBIs.

In June of 1968, Wert was severely beaned and missed several games. His hitting fell off dramatically, as he batted .200 for 1968 after hitting a combined .261 for the previous five seasons. He never completely recovered his hitting stroke, batting .225 in 1969 and .218 in 1970.

Following the 1970 season, the Tigers traded Wert with Elliott Maddox, Denny McLain and Norm McRae to the Washington Senators for Ed Brinkman, Joe Coleman, Jim Hannan and Aurelio Rodriguez. During spring training, Wert injured his back in a collision at second base and opened the 1971 season on the disabled list. He appeared in only 20 games for the Senators before being released and retiring.

In nine major league seasons, Wert batted .242 with 929 career hits. He was named to the American League All-Star team in 1968, and doubled off Tom Seaver in his only All-Star at-bat.

 

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