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Maury Wills

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Maury Wills

A photo of Maury Wills.

Maurice Morning Wills (born October 2 1932 in Washington, D.C.) is a former Major League Baseball shortstop and switch-hitting batter who played most prominently with the Los Angeles Dodgers (1959-66, 1969-72), and also with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1967-68) and Montreal Expos (1969). He was an essential component of the Dodgers' championship teams in the mid-1960s, and deserves much credit for reviving the stolen base as part of baseball strategy.[citation needed]

In 14-seasons career, Wills batted .281 with 20 home runs, 458 runs batted in, 2134 hits, 1067 runs, 177 doubles, 71 triples, and 586 stolen bases in 1942 games.

Playing careerEdit

In his first-full season (1960), Wills hit .295 and led the league with 50 stolen bases, being the first NL player to steal 50 since Max Carey stole 51 in 1923. Wills stole 104 bases in 1962 to establish a new record in baseball, breaking the old mark of 96, set by Ty Cobb in 1915.[citation needed] Wills also outstole all of the other teams that year, the highest total being the Washington Senators' 99.[citation needed] Besides this, he hit .299, led the league in triples (10), and was selected the NL Most Valuable Player (beating out Willie Mays by seven points).

Although Luis Aparicio had been stealing 50+ bases in the American League for several years prior to Wills' insurgence, Wills brought new prominence to the tactic.[citation needed] Perhaps this was due to greater media exposure in Los Angeles, or to the Dodgers' greater success, or to their extreme reliance on a low-scoring strategy that emphasized pitching, defense, and Wills' speed to compensate for their lack of productive hitters. Wills was a significant distraction to the pitcher even if he didn't try to steal, because he was a constant threat to do so.[citation needed] The fans at Dodger Stadium would chant, "Go! Go! Go!" anytime he got on base.[citation needed] A winner of the Gold Glove Award in 1961 and 1962, Wills was selected five times for the All-Star Game.

RetirementEdit

After retiring, he managed the Seattle Mariners (1980-81), but did not do so well there. Baseball writer Rob Neyer criticized Wills in his Big Book of Baseball Blunders for "the variety and frequency of [his] mistakes" as manager, calling them "unparalleled.[citation needed] In a short interview appearing in the June 5, 2006 issue of Newsweek, Neyer said, "It wasn't just that Wills couldn't do the in-game stuff. Wills's inability to communicate with his players really sets him apart. He said he was going to make his second baseman, Julio Cruz, his permanent shortstop. Twenty-four hours later he was back at second base. As far as a guy who put in some real time, I don't think there's been anyone close to Wills."

Wills also spent time as a baseball analyst at NBC from 1973 through 1977.

The Maury Wills Museum resides in Fargo, North Dakota at Newman Outdoor Field home of the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks. Maury was a coach on the team from 1996-1997 and from 1998-2005 was the radio color commentator for the Redhawks with play-by-play man Jack Michaels.

PersonalEdit

Wills claims to have had a love affair with actress Doris Day.[citation needed] Day denied this in her autobiography Doris Day: Her Own Story, and said it was probably advanced by the Dodgers organization for publicity purposes.

HighlightsEdit

  • 5-time All-Star (1961-63, 1965-66)
  • All-Star Game MVP (1962)
  • NL MVP (1962)
  • Twice Gold Glove (1961-62)
  • Twice led National League in At Bats (1961 and 1962)
  • Led National League in Triples (1962)
  • Led National League in Stolen Bases for 6 consecutive seasons (1960-65)
  • Led National League in Singles 4 times (1961-62, 1965 and 1967)
  • Led National League in Sacrifice Hits (1961)
  • Los Angeles Dodgers Career Stolen Base Leader (490)
  • Holds MLB record for most Games Played in a single season (165 in 1962)
  • Holds Los Angeles Dodgers Single-Season for At Bats (695 in 1962)
  • 7th MLB player to hit home runs from each side of the plate in a game (1962)
  • Won the Hickok Belt award (1962)

The stolen base “asterisk”Edit

While Wills had broken Cobb's single season stolen base record in 1962, the National League had increased its number of games played per team that year from 154 to 162. Wills' 97th stolen base had occurred after his team had played its 154th game; as a result, Commissioner Ford Frick ruled that Wills' 104-steal season and Cobb's 96-steal season of 1915 were separate records, just as he had the year before (the American League had also increased its number of games played per team to 162) after Roger Maris had broken Babe Ruth's single season home run record. Both stolen base records would be broken in 1974 by Lou Brock's 118 steals; Brock had broken Cobb's stolen base record by stealing his 97th base before his St. Louis Cardinals had completed their 154th game.[citation needed]

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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