Francis Michael Skaff (September 30, 1910 – April 12, 1988) was an infielder, coach, manager and scout in American Major League Baseball. Skaff served as acting manager of the Detroit Tigers for the latter half of the 1966 season after his two predecessors in the post were stricken with terminal illnesses.
A native of La Crosse, Wisconsin, who batted and threw right-handed, Skaff was a 1935 graduate of Villanova University, where he received a degree in economics. He spent the most productive years of his playing career with the International League Baltimore Orioles during World War II. He appeared in six games for the 1935 Brooklyn Dodgers and in 32 contests for the 1943 Philadelphia Athletics, hitting .320 in 75 at bats. He managed in the A's farm system and was a coach for the 1954 Orioles during their first American League season as the reborn St. Louis Browns, before joining the Tiger organization as a minor league skipper.
Skaff's turn as acting manager of the 1966 Tigers came as a result of the serious, ultimately fatal, illnesses of his two 1966 predecessors. He began the year as a Detroit coach. But, after 26 games, veteran manager Chuck Dressen suffered his second heart attack in as many seasons. As in 1965, third base coach Bob Swift took over the Tigers on an interim basis as Dressen recovered. But after 57 games, Swift was hospitalized during the All-Star break for what appeared to be a stomach ailment; however, his malady proved to be lung cancer and he was forced to immediately give up the reins.
Skaff, who had begun the season as Detroit's bench coach, then moved to third base under Swift, became the team's second acting manager of the season on July 14 and finished the campaign. Both Dressen and Swift died later in the year. Dressen, 71, appeared to be making a recovery in early August when he was stricken by a kidney infection; he died August 10. Swift, 51, succumbed to cancer on October 17, 1966.
Meanwhile, the Tigers won only 40 of the 79 games Skaff managed, and finished third in the American League, nine games in arrears of the eventual world champion Orioles.
In October, Mayo Smith was named manager for 1967, and Skaff moved into a scouting role. He never managed again in the majors (his 40–39 career record produced a winning percentage of .506), but he returned to Detroit as a coach under Billy Martin in 1971.
He died in Towson, Maryland in 1988 at the age of 77 while on a scouting trip for the Tigers.
By Dean Hanley
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