Eddie Mayo played five seasons in Detroit leading the Tigers to their second world title. Like Miguel Cabrera nearly 70 years later, Mayo switched positions for the team’s betterment. During the war era, he moved from third to second, improved his offense, and played great defense. Mayo’s efforts made him a vital cog in Detroit’s golden age.
Third baseman Eddie Mayo entered the majors in 1936. He played for the New York Giants and Boston Bees until 1938. He hit .199, .227, and .214 resulting in banishment to the Pacific Coast League (PCL) for five seasons. The Athletics rescued him from oblivion in 1943. The wartime manpower shortage saved Mayo’s Major League career. The third baseman hit just .219 in his return. An eye injury may have contributed to the low batting average. The A’s sold him to the Red Sox, but Detroit used the rule 5 draft to confiscate Mayo’s services.
Pinky Higgins owned third base in Detroit forcing Mayo to switch positions. Mayo had never played second base before, but appeared comfortable. He fielded the position well and led the league in double plays. His batting average jumped 30 points to .249. He chipped in 63 RBI and led the league with 28 sacrifices. For his efforts, he finished 29th in the MVP voting.
Mayo improved in the MVP balloting in 1945. He finished second to teammate and Hall of Fame pitcher Hal Newhouser. The second baseman hit .285 with a career best 10 home runs and 54 RBI. He also set his career high in OPS at .752 and made his only All Star Game. World War II cancelled the game, but not the World Series. Mayo led Tiger regulars with his average and the team to the promised land. Detroit won the series over the Cubs. Mayo went 2-for-5, knocked in two runs, and scored two in Game 7. The Sporting News named him World Series MVP while the baseball writers gave the nod to Newhouser.
Despite the heroics in 1945, Mayo lost his job. Jimmy Bloodworth returned from the war to claim second and the Tigers acquired George Kell to play third. Mayo hit .252 and turned a triple play in limited action in 1946. Mayo persevered to win the starting job back in 1947. He played his final season in 1948 before accepting the Toledo Mud Hens managerial position.
Eddie Mayo emerged from absolute obscurity to lead the Tigers to the World Series. He failed to impress major league general managers in his initial big league appearances and landed in the PCL. World War II opened the door for his return. The Tigers moved him to second base and Mayo became a star for a brief moment.