Reading the obituaries for Steve Boros, who died Wednesday night (Dec. 29) at the age of 74, defines his major league career thoroughly. For those who grew up as a Detroit Tiger fan during that era, he was considered one of the most promising players to move into a starting role.
What people might not realize is that Boros was one of the few players to make the jump to pros from the collegiate ranks. The Flint, Mich., native made that jump from the University of Michigan.
As U-M player, Boros hit .324 in his first year on the team in 1956 and followed that with a .381 average the next season. He helped Michigan to a 36-16 record in those two seasons and was named an All-Big Ten conference third baseman in 1957. H ewas named to the Michigan Hall of Honor in 1996.
He left the Wolverines for the pros after the 1957 season and started a career in sport that would span decades.
"Those things just didn't happen in those days," said former Detroit News baseball writer and retired Detroit Tiger public relations man Dan Ewald. "He stood out from the players of that time. He was a cerebral individual, a deep thinker."
The players of those days were curious about having Boros on the team. They had no idea how a collegian was going to fit into the major leagues. It didn't take long for his future teammates to find out.
"He was a gentleman and one helluva guy," added Ewald.
And while he honed his baseball talents at Michigan under the tutelage of the legendary Ray Fisher, it was probably his time in the classroom that made him the big name in baseball well beyond his playing days.
Boros was an excellent communicator. Not only did he understand the game of baseball, he could easily explain it.
It was easy to see why he managed the Oakland Athletics in 1983 and '84, plus the San Diego Padres in 1986. He also coached for four other major league teams before rejoining the Tigers as the minor league field coordinator, director of player development and special assistant to the general manager.
Of course, the story everyone talks about was what he did for the Los Angeles Dodgers. As an advance scout, he noticed that A's reliever Dennis Eckersley threw a back-door slider on full counts to left-handed hitters. Boros noted it and when Kirk Gibson stepped to the plate as a pinch-hitter with two outs in the bottom of ninth in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series against Eckersley, the 3-2 count home run to win the game for the Dodgers is still a legendary round-tripper in baseball lore.
What makes it even a little more interesting and ironic is that it was a Michigan man's information (Boros) that helped immortalize a Michigan State Spartan (Gibson).
The city of Flint, the University of Michigan and baseball are indeed appreciative that Boros "stood out as a player" and used his background to become a gentleman and become one of the big names in sports.