Maury Wills, one of the greatest base stealers and most exciting ball players of his era, has passed away, reports the New York Times. He was 89.
His passing was confirmed by his former team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in an official statement.
Dodger President and CEO Stan Kasten lauded Wills for his speed around the bags and his vital role as a member of several championship teams.
“Maury Wills was one of the most exciting Dodgers of all-time,” said Dodger President and CEO Stan Kasten. “He changed baseball with his base-running and made the stolen base an important part of the game. He was very instrumental in the success of the Dodgers with three world championships.”
Maurice Morning Wills was born on October 2, 1932, in Washington, D.C. At D.C.'s Cardozo High School, he became a two-sport star. In football, he played quarterback, safety on defense and kicker on special teams. He was a starring pitcher at his high school's baseball team. He won all-city honors in both sports. In 1951, he switched to the infield.
Wills toiled for eight seasons in the minor leagues before he was called up to the majors in June of 1959. He joined the Dodgers as a shortstop; the team defeated the Chicago White Sox in the World Series that same year.
He stole 50 bases in 1960, his first full season in the majors. He won the National League’s base-stealing title every year through 1965.
In his MVP season in 1962, he broke Ty Cobb’s single-season base-stealing of record with 104 bases stolen. He played on the Dodger World Series championship teams in 1963 and 1965.
Following the 1966 season, he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates and went on to play for the Montreal Expos before being traded back to the Dodgers in June 1969, where he played until 1972.
In his stellar career, he batted 281, with 2,134 hits. He was a five-time All-Star and won two Gold Glove awards. He remained on the Hall of Fame ballot for 15 seasons but his name was never called for induction.
For Wills, stealing bases was a mental battle that he waged against the opposing pitcher.
“Stealing is a matter of confidence, even conceit,” he said in an interview. “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.”
His base-stealing prowess opened the door for Hall of Famers Lou Brock of the St. Louis Cardinals, who stole 118 bases in 1974, and Rickey Henderson of the Oakland A’s, who holds the current record, set in 1982, with 130 steals.
After Wills retired, he was a baseball analyst for NBC-TV’s Game of the Week. In 1980, the Seattle Mariners hired him as the third Black manager in major league baseball history, following Frank Robinson of the Cleveland Indians and Larry Doby of the Chicago White Sox.
In 2010, Wills was voted as the fifth-greatest Los Angeles Dodger of all-time by readers of the Los Angeles Times.
Wills is survived by his wife, Carla; two sons, Barry and Bump; four daughters, Mauricia Wills, Anita Wills, Wendi Wills and Susan Wills-Quam; seven grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and a number of his siblings.
We at EBONY extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Maury Wills.