Maurice Morning Wills
- Bats Both, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 170 lb.
- High School Cardozo High School
- Debut June 6, 1959
- Final Game October 4, 1972
- Born October 2, 1932 in Washington, DC USA
Maury Wills was a record setting 1960s-era shortstop who had a noteworthy 14-year big league career, mainly with the Los Angeles Dodgers. For six years running from 1960-65 he led the NL in stolen bases. In 1962 he had a season for the ages, breaking Ty Cobb's seemingly invincible 47 year-old ML mark of 96 with a spectacular 104 swipes, enough to run off with the 1962 National League MVP.
When he retired his 586 steals were #10 on the all-time list, the most by anyone since 1929. So big an impact did Wills have on the game the otherwise modestly skilled five-time All-Star got as high as 40% of the BBWAA vote for the Hall of Fame during his years of eligibility. This was matched in the 2007 Veterans Committee election, good for fifth on their ballot. He is the father of Bump Wills.
Wills was born in Washington, D.C. and went to high school there. He spent 1951-58 and part of 1959 in the minors. Except for one year, he always hit at least .250, and three times broke .300. He pitched in two games, showing a good ERA. Mostly, though, he played second base, then third, and finally a lot at shortstop. However, Pee Wee Reese was the Dodgers' regular shortstop through 1956 and then Charlie Neal and Don Zimmer won the job in 1957-59. Both Neal and Zimmer were two years older than Wills.
Wills had been signed in 1951 by the Brooklyn Dodgers but spent many years in the minor leagues before coming up to the Dodgers, who had since moved to Los Angeles, in 1959. He played in 83 games in the regular season, and then 6 more in the Dodgers' winning effort in the 1959 World Series.
He began his noteworthy base stealing efforts in 1960, when he hit .295 (10th in the league) and stole 50 bases. In 1961, his batting average and stolen base count dropped, but he was named to the first of his All-Star games and also won his first Gold Glove at shortstop.
In 1962 he repeated both and bagged the MVP. During his incandescent 104 steal campaign he was only caught only 13 times, a fantastic 89% success rate over so many attempts.
In 1963 his stolen base production dropped off sharply, but he hit .302, placing in the top ten in the league. He rebounded some in '64 but dropped to .275 before bouncing back strong with a prolific 94 steal '65 season.
Wills featured a strong arm from shortstop. He is also a rare example of a successful batter who became a switch hitter relatively late in his long minor-league days. Although he hit just 20 home runs in his ML career, Wills would very occasionally try to muscle up and bat right handed, his natural side, against a right-handed pitcher. He was a rarity, a banjo hitter who also played the instrument.
After another downward trending season in 1966 he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The NL Champion Dodgers plummeted to 8th in 1967 without Wills, who hit .302 for the Bucs, good for ninth in the league. The Pirates used him as a third baseman because they already had the outstanding fielding Gene Alley at short.
Wills was left unprotected by the Pirates in the 1969 expansion draft and selected by the Montreal Expos. He played short and and lead-off in the Expos' first-ever game on April 8, 1969 at Shea Stadium in New York. He stole 15 bases for the Expos (a team record until Mike Jorgensen swiped 16 in 1973) before a June 12, 1969 trade brought him home to LA. Wills finished up his career in there from 1969 to 1972. He continued to hit for a good average for them in 1969-1971, but fell off sharply in his last season at age 39 when he lost his starting job early in the season to future longtime Dodger fixture Bill Russell.
Overall, Wills' batting averages were pretty high by second dead-ball era standards, a career .330 OBP revealing he didn't draw a lot of walks. It's an indication of how much the game has changed that this was not regarded as an issue at all for a base-stealing lead-off man in his days.
Manager and coach
After his playing days Wills became a baserunning guru, working for a number of teams, and managed in the winter leagues. He was hired by the Seattle Mariners to succeed Darrell Johnson as manager in 1980, but his stay at the helm was disastrous. Distracted by off-field problems, he led the Mariners to a lusterless 20-38 record to finish the 1980 season. With rumors of discontent running rife during spring training in 1981, he was picked by Sports Illustrated as the manager most-likely to be fired in its season-preview issue, and made that prediction a reality by leading the team to a 6-18 start that spelled the end of his tenure. The team improved noticeably under his successor, Rene Lachemann. Still, Wills is only the third black man to manage in the major leagues, after Frank Robinson and Larry Doby.
Wills 165 game 1962
When the 1962 season ended the San Francisco Giants and the Dodgers were tied with a 101-61 record. Under the rules of the day, they played a best of three playoff series. The series went all three games, with the Giants winning the pennant. Wills played in all 162 regular season games and the 3 tie-breaker games, which are counted as regular season games, much like today's one-game playoffs are counted as regular season contests.
To date, six players have played 164 games in a season but no one has tied Wills' 165 game mark.
Dodging an asterisk
In setting the mark for stolen bases in 1962, Wills avoided the "asterisk" controversy that surrounded Roger Maris when he hit 61 home runs in 1961 to top Babe Ruth's 60 in 1927, but with the schedule advantage of eight more games. Maris had 59 homers after the New York Yankees's 154th game.
Commissioner Ford Frick followed the precedent he set the prior year and ruled that Wills must steal his 97th base by the 156th game to break Ty Cobb's record of 96 in 1915. The number was 156 instead of the usual 154 because the Detroit Tigers tied the St. Louis Browns in two games that May. The games were replayed later, but the players' statistics from the tied games were counted.
In any event, Wills stole his 97th base in the Dodgers' 156th game, dodging an asterisk and sparing the game and its fans no small awkwardness.
- 5-time NL All-Star (1961-1963, 1965 & 1966)
- NL MVP (1962)
- 1962 All-Star Game MVP
- 2-time NL Gold Glove Winner (1961 & 1962)
- 2-time NL At Bats Leader (1961 & 1962)
- NL Triples Leader (1962)
- 6-time NL Stolen Bases Leader (1960-1965)
- 4-time NL Singles Leader (1961, 1962, 1965 & 1967)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1961 & 1962)
- 200 Hits Seasons: 1 (1962)
- 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 5 (1960, 1962, 1964, 1965 & 1968)
- 100 Stolen Bases Seasons: 1 (1962)
- Won three World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers (1959, 1963 & 1965)
|Frank Robinson||Maury Wills||Sandy Koufax|
|Seattle Mariners Manager
Year-By-Year Managerial Record
|1980||Seattle Mariners||American League||20-38||7th||Seattle Mariners||replaced Darrell Johnson (39-65) on August 4|
|1981||Seattle Mariners||American League||6-18||--||Seattle Mariners||replaced by Rene Lachemann on May 6|
Games played, season, 165, 1962
- Lyle Spencer: "Wills' impact on game is Hall of Fame worthy: Former Dodgers star instrumental in World Series championships", mlb.com, January 3, 2015.