Friday, June 06, 2008

Dr. Strangeglove Would Have Fit Perfectly On Today's Tigers

Dick Stuart wasn't buried, so you couldn't have buried his first baseman's glove with him, which would have been maybe the only way that mitt could be assured of not playing a role in committing yet another error by its owner.

The 2008 Tigers are not God's gift to fine baseball defense. Quite the opposite, in fact. Manager Jim Leyland keeps shuffling players from position to position, hoping they show some sort of competence on the diamond. Already, Miguel Cabrera has become an ex-third baseman and shaky first baseman; Carlos Guillen has become an ex-first basemen, an ex-third baseman, and is now adding left field to his ghoulish trifecta; and Brandon Inge is being used as the world's biggest band-aid, with Leyland no doubt wondering if Inge can not only play third base, but maybe first as well.

All of which would have made Stuart such a great fit in Detroit this year. He would have fit like a glove -- especially if that glove was made of cast iron.

Stuart, grasping what he grasped best -- his bat

Stuart, you see, was nicknamed Dr. Strangeglove -- skewed homage to his reputation as a good hit, no field first sacker. He picked up the moniker because his career was at its peak when the movie Dr. Strangelove, starring Peter Sellers in the title role, was popular.

Stuart was a tall, lanky slugger who was your classic power hitter: an all-or-nothing swinger who, when he made contact, could rocket the ball out of Yosemite Park. He was Dave Kingman before there was Kingman, a rotten fielder whose bat was too valuable to keep on the bench. So the Pittsburgh Pirates, where Stuart spent most of his career, tried to hide him at first base. But it was like trying to hide a white elephant in a broom closet.

Stuart was so bad, that one time a hot dog wrapper floated down from the stands, and when Dr. Strangeglove snatched it up with his glove, he received a standing ovation from the Pittsburgh faithful. He hit 152 home runs in just over 2700 at bats, and on four occasions committed more than 20 errors at 1B in a single season -- including a high of 29 in 1963, with the Red Sox. His lifetime fielding average was .982 -- which means that nine times out of every 500 chances, Stuart made an error. For a first baseman, who handles the ball so much, that's absolutely frightening.

I'll always remember Stuart fondly, because I simply adore his nickname -- my favorite in all of sports. Dr. Strangeglove. I love typing it, I love saying it. And I love thinking about it.

Stuart's last year in the bigs was in 1969, when he got 51 at-bats with the Angels. That followed a nearly three-year retirement. He died in December 2002, at age 70. He was cremated.

I wonder if they burned his first baseman's glove along with him, after all.


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