Dick McAuliffe had a bizarre batting stance. He held his hands up high and then moved his foot into the pitch. The stance served him well for 16 seasons. McAuliffe played for the Tigers from 1960-1973 and was a member of the 1968 World Champion squad. He was a versatile player, All Star, and key component for the Tigers.
Twenty-year-old McAuliffe joined the Tigers as a shortstop. He made eight appearances in 1960 and batted .259 in 27 at bats. The infielder played in 80 games at shortstop and third base in 1961. McAuliffe hit .256 and switched to second base for the 1962 campaign. Then, he replaced Chico Fernandez as the starting shortstop in 1963.
McAuliffe started for Detroit at short for four seasons before switching to second base in 1967. He was the starting shortstop in the 1965 All Star Game and hit a home run. He also made the All Star team in 1966 and 1967. McAuliffe clubbed 23 home runs and slugged .509 in 1966. From 1962-1971, the middle infielder displayed good power hitting 12, 13, 24, 15, 23, 22, 16, 11, 12, and 18 home runs.
The Tigers just missed winning the pennant in 1967. McAuliffe walked 105 times to offset his .239 batting average in his first season at second base since 1962. The second baseman hit 7 triples, scored 92 runs, hit 22 home runs, and finished with a .364 OBP. He teamed with slick fielding Ray Oyler to give Detroit solid defense up the middle.
The Oyler-McAuliffe combination played together in the 1968 championship season as well. McAuliffe did not make the All Star team for the first time since 1964, but finished 7th in the MVP voting. He batted .249 with 16 home runs, 56 RBI, had 24 doubles, 10 triples, walked 82 times, and led the league with 95 runs scored. Pitching dominated 1968 and McAuliffe performed well offensively considering the environment.
The highlight, or lowlight, of the 1968 regular season for McAuliffe occurred on August 22, 1968. Tommy John buzzed a pitch at the second baseman’s head. Then, John whipped one behind McAuliffe. The Tiger charged the mound and dislocated John’s shoulder. The action led to a five game suspension, but McAuliffe showed no contrition decades later. He claimed John was throwing at him and the film evidence supports his assertion.
The Tigers won the World Series about two months after the brawl. They fell behind 3-games-to-1 to the World Champion Cardinals, but came back for an amazing victory. McAuliffe batted .222 with a home run and three RBI against the Cards. Four years later, he hit .200 with a home run against the A’s in the ALCS.
McAuliffe remained with the Tigers through the 1973 season. He hit a career best .274 at age 33 with 12 home run and 47 RBI. Detroit traded him to Boston for Ben Oglivie in October 1973. Oglivie spent four seasons in Detroit before departing for Milwaukee. He became a star for the Brewers. Meanwhile, McAuliffe batted .210 and .133 in his final two campaigns. He retired in 1975 after playing seven games with the Red Sox.
Bill James considers Dick McAuliffe the 22nd greatest second baseman of all time. He was not a Hall of Fame player, but a solid, gritty competitor. McAuliffe hit .249 for the Tigers during a pitching rich era and provided surprise power. He hit 192 of his 197 home runs with Detroit and averaged 18 a year. The three-time All Star finished 7th in the 1968 MVP vote and helped the Tigers to the 1968 World Championship and 1972 AL East division crown.