Preston: Al Dark’s misadventures putting pitchers in the field

From SABR member J.G. Preston at The J.G. Preston Experience on June 22, 2013:

Some time ago I wrote about the last left-handed thrower to earn a fielding chance as a second baseman: Cleveland Indians pitcher Sam McDowell, in 1970. The manager who pulled this unusual maneuver of putting a lefty at second base was Alvin Dark. It wasn’t the first time Dark moved a pitcher to another position, it wouldn’t be the last, and on two occasions the tactic turned out quite badly.

The first time Dark moved a pitcher off the mound in a game was when he was manager of the A’s on June 18, 1967, when with two out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth at Detroit he moved right-hander Catfish Hunter to first base and brought in lefty Tony Pierce to pitch to left-handed-hitting Gates Brown as the tying run. Brown struck out to end the game.

Then on June 7, 1968, with Dark now managing Cleveland, again with two out in the bottom of the ninth at Detroit, this time with nobody on base and the Indians holding a one-run lead, lefty Mike Paul had a 3-and-1 count on right-handed-hitting Bill Freehan when Dark decided to bring in righty Stan Williams, in the process moving Paul to first base. Freehan singled (through the left side of the infield, away from Paul) and Dark moved Paul back to the mound to face left-handed-hitting Dick McAuliffe. Lee Maye, normally an outfielder, entered the game to play first base for the first (and, as it turned out, only) time in his major league career. McAuliffe hit a bouncer between Maye and second baseman Vern Fuller; Russell Schneider wrote in the next day’s Plain Dealer that Fuller could have made the play, but Maye went after the ball and fumbled it, McAuliffe reaching on the error. Mickey Stanley followed with a triple to score both Freehan and McAuliffe and give the Tigers the win.

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Originally published: June 24, 2013. Last Updated: June 24, 2013.