Major League Baseball lost a legend this week when former Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills passed away at the age of 89. Let MLBbro.com put this on the record:
Maury Wills is the most underrated and underappreciated superstar in Major League History. This MLBbro icon reintroduced the stolen base as a weapon in baseball in his era and the fact that he was snubbed by the Hall of Fame Golden Days Era voting committee last year cements this fact.
Before Rickey Henderson dazzled the MLB fan base with his 130 stolen bases back in 1982, it was Maury Wills that set the blueprint of the “art of the steal” on the basepaths, breaking Ty Cobb’s record for stolen bases (96) with 104 in 1962. Based on this statement to The New York Times that year, his mindset was different from the other players in that era…
“Stealing is a matter of confidence, even conceit,” he told The New York Times in September 1962. “It’s more than getting a good jump, a big lead. It’s being in the right frame of mind. I run with the thought that the pitcher will make a perfect throw and the catcher will make a perfect throw and I’ll still beat them. I don’t have a doubt.”
Forget the load management that baseball players have today, Wills played an MLB record (that will never be broken) 165 games that year due to the three game playoff series against the New York Giants that ended with “The Shot Heard Around the World.”
After spending most of the 1950’s working his way through the minor leagues, Wills got his “Lou Gehrig” break by inheriting the shortstop position left by a retired Pee Wee Reese in 1959. He replaced supposed starter Don Zimmer when the future manager broke his toe. Like Gehrig’s career in a New York Yankee uniform, Maury’s career took off and Zimmer’s job went the way of Wally Pipp.
The MLBbro icon helped the Dodgers win the NL Pennant and a World Series title defeating the Chicago White Sox in six games.
Maury Wills never looked back, when he broke Cobb’s record that stood since the 1915 season. Our MLBbro icon also won the National League Most Valuable Player award in ’62 and won the first MLB All-Star Game MVP that year. Let’s not forget the lightening quick Willis’ soft hands and Gold Glove. In his 14 MLbbro season, Wills collected 20 homers, 458 RBI, 2,134 hits, 1,067 runs, 177 doubles, 71 triples and 552 walks in 1,942 games. Add on seven All-Star games, that should wrap up a Hall of Fame career.
This MLBbro icon’s legacy will always be connected to the stolen base and how it influenced the 1960’s. Over the next 30 years it’s amazing how teams added the philosophy to their offensive strategies.
Just look at Wills’ influence on the game over this 15-year period…
Stolen base leaders from 1960-65:
- Maury Wills: 376
- Luis Aparicio: 258
- Lou Brock: 146
- Willie Davis: 139
- Vada Pinson: 137
- Henry Aaron: 129
- Frank Robinson: 115
- Chuck Hinton: 109
- Dick Howser: 102
Through this period, outside of Wills, no one on the list topped the 100 stolen base mark for a season. But thanks to Maury’s popularity, it allowed other players the opportunity to steal bases more often. In the time period covering the 1966 to 1970 seasons, 4 players stole more than 100 bases.
Wills was traded before the 1966 season and spent time with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Montreal Expos before returning to the Dodgers to complete his career. But his legacy will live on through Dodgers manager, Dave Roberts. Wills impacted Roberts’ career in so many ways.
— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) September 20, 2022
“He just loved the game of baseball, loved working and loved the relationship with players,” Roberts said. “We spent a lot of time together. He showed me how to appreciate my craft and what it is to be a big leaguer. He just loved to teach. So I think a lot of where I get my excitement, my passion and my love for the players is from Maury.
“And in a strange way, I think I enriched his post-baseball career as far as watching every game I played or managed. I remember even during games I played, He’d come down from the suite and tell me I need to bunt more, I need you to do this or that.
“It just showed that he was in it with me, and to this day, he would be there cheering for me.”
"Maury Wills! Can you hit leadoff for me?" – Dave Roberts pic.twitter.com/X4UmHEMcy7
— Dodger Insider (@DodgerInsider) December 1, 2015
Dodgers Nation now has lost two legends this season — broadcasting icon, Vin Scully being the other — just before their postseason run. But if the players have the same mindset that Maury Wills had and shared with Sports Illustrated in 1965, the Dodgers will be just fine…
“I know when I have had a lousy day just by looking down at my uniform,” he told the magazine. “If it isn’t dirty, I haven’t scored two runs, I haven’t done my job.”