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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Full Throttle in Center

 

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Willie Davis

For nearly the entire 1960s, center field in Dodger Stadium was patrolled by one of the fastest men in baseball during that decade, Willie Davis. Replacing Hall of Famer Duke Snider in 1961, Davis played 14 seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers (out of an 18-season major league career) and, by the time he retired, held more than a handful of Dodger records, with both his bat and his glove.

Willie Davis collected more base hits than any Dodger since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958. He retired with a .279 career batting average.

Willie Davis collected more base hits than any Dodger since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958. He retired with a .279 career batting average.

Davis was a three-sport athlete in high school when he was signed by the Dodgers in 1958. He made his debut with the Dodgers in 1960 and had taken over the center field position from Snider by the end of 1961. In his first full season as a starter, Davis hit .285 for the Dodgers in 1962, with 21 home runs and 85 RBIs. He batted a combined .279 in his 14 seasons with the Dodgers.

Davis made full use of his tremendous speed both at the plate and in the outfield. He led the National League in triples in 1962 (10) and in 1970 (16). Teamed with shortstop Maury Wills at the top of the Dodger batting order, he gave middle-of-the-lineup hitters such as Tommy Davis, Frank Howard and Ron Fairly plenty of RBI opportunities, and was capable of driving in runs himself, recording a career high of 93 RBIs in 1970. While Wills was the Dodgers’ premier base stealer during the 1960s, Davis was no slouch in the “theft” department, and was a better all-around hitter than Wills. Davis stole 20 or more bases in a season 13 times in his career, with a career best of 42 in 1964.

The 1960s featured an abundance of outstanding defensive center fielders, and Davis was one of the best of the best. He led all National League outfielders in total putouts in 1964 (400) and in 1971 (404). He finished in the top five in that category 12 times in his career. He remains fourth all-time in career putouts as a center fielder (5,278).

Willie Davis stole 20 or more bases 13 times in his 18-year career.

Willie Davis stole 20 or more bases 13 times in his 18-year career.

In December of 1973, the Dodgers traded Davis to the Montreal Expos for pitcher Mike Marshall. Davis hit .295 in his only season in Montreal, and then was traded to the Texas Rangers for Pete Mackanin and Don Stanhouse. He played for only two months with the Rangers, and in June of 1975 was shipped to the St. Louis Cardinals for Ed Brinkman and Tommy Moore. He also made brief stops with the San Diego Padres and the California Angels before closing out his playing career in Japan.

Davis retired with 2,561 hits and a career batting average of .279. He has more hits than any Dodger since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958, and his 31-game hitting streak in 1969 remains the franchise record. During his career, Davis won three Gold Gloves and was an All-Star twice.

 

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