Detroit Tigers 3rd Baseman
Phil Mankowski is recognized as one of the best baseball players ever to hail from Western New York. Considered one of the top pitchers in Erie County during his youth baseball years, winning championships seemed to be part of his make-up from the time he was in elementary school, at Most Holy Redeemer. While there, his team won the 1964 Diocesan Baseball Championship and the Buffalo Police Athletic League Baseball Championship in 1965. He also was a standout in three local baseball leagues: MUNY-AAA, AAABA and American Legion.
After an outstanding four year varsity career at Bishop Turner High School, the left-hand hitting Mankowski was drafted in 1970 at the age of 17 in the ninth round by the Detroit Tigers. Signing Mankowski was the Tigers’ legendary scout and Greater Buffalo Sport Hall of Fame member, Cy Williams.
Mankowski steadily worked his way up through the minor leagues winning a championship in 1975 as a member of the Double-A Montgomery Rebels. A solid season in 1976 with Triple-A Evansville, where he hit .288 with 49 RBI, earned him a promotion to the parent club. Debuting with the Detroit Tigers on August 30, 1976, he demonstrated the major league player he was to be with five multi-hit games during the final month of the season.
When incumbent Tigers third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez went down with an injury in 1977, Mankowski responded with three hits in his first game and batted .316 as his replacement. For the remainder of the season, Mankowski batted .276 and achieved career highs in nearly every offensive category.
In 1979 he was traded to the New York Mets for Richie Hebner. He played his sixth and final year in the major leagues in 1982, appearing in 13 games with the Mets and batting .229. Overall, Mankowski played in 269 Major League games and had a career batting average of .264. The West Seneca resident finished his career with a .962 fielding percentage in 240 games at third base.
After his playing career, Mankowski appeared in the 1984 film “The Natural” as the New York Knights third baseman Hank Benz. As a Buffalo native, he was perfect for the movie which was shot in Buffalo, partially at War Memorial Stadium. Mankowski’s major appearance in the film was in the scene when he was gazing into the stands at an attractive female and was hit with a batted ball below the belt.