|OLD SCHOOL MAN OF STEAL.|
|THAT "EXCITEMENT'' CONSISTED OF 15 STEALS IN 47 GAMES.|
THE FRONT PAGE
- Maury Wills ushered the stolen base back into the game in 1960, when he swiped 50, the most since '23. Then he set the major-league record in '62 with 104, surpassing Ty Cobb's 96 in '15. He was named NL MVP that season, edging Willie Mays (.304, 49 HRs, 141 RBI) by seven points. I've always loved the stolen base and the running game, but I think that record skewed some of the writers' judgment. Incidentally, Wills' WAR was 5.8, Mays' 10.2.
THE BACK PAGE
- Without steals listed, Wills' numbers look rather ordinary.
- The old, reliable nostrils pose, so we can direct the eyes away from the airbrushed cap. Love it.
- This was only Wills' third Topps card because the company didn't consider him a prospect early on, and he wasn't signed to a contract.
- Primarily a shortstop, Wills had an interesting playing career but a disastrous managing career. As a player, he was the godfather of the modern speedster, whose offspring include Lou Brock, Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines and Vince Coleman. Perhaps soon, Reds prospect Billy Hamilton will join them.
- The Dodgers of the '60s built their offense around Wills' ability to get on and steal. That tactic, combined with their pitching and defense, helped L.A. win a lot of low-scoring games and two World Series titles during the decade. Interestingly, Wills never led the NL in runs and only twice scored 100-plus.
- Averaged 59 steals from '60-'67, was a five-time All-Star and won two Gold Gloves.
- His 94 steals in '65 helped him finish third in the NL MVP voting as the Dodgers won their second Series of the decade. While Wills led the NL in steals six times, he also led baseball in caught-stealing six times; his lifetime stolen-base percentage was only 73.8.
- After the '66 season, he was traded to the Pirates, who didn't protect him in the '68 expansion draft, and he was selected by the Expos. He was traded midseason in '69 back to the Dodgers, where he played until '72.
- If Wills was fast on the basepaths, he was slow in the dugout. He took over for Seattle Manager Darrell Johnson in '80 without any minor-league experience and it showed.
- Among his gaffes: Called for a reliever even though none was warming up; delayed another game 10 minutes while he decided on a pinch-hitter; had the batter's box lengthened before one game. That occurred in '81 against the A's and Manager Billy Martin, who you knew wouldn't let that go unchallenged. When the umpire measured the box, Wills came clean, saying he had it done to keep his players in the box. Martin knew better and said it was to help the Mariner batters against his staff's breaking-ball pitchers. Wills received a two-game suspension and fine..
- After a 6-18 start in '81, Wills was fired. His teams were 26-56. In Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders, the author makes a case for Wills being the worst manager ever.
- Most of his troubles were traced to his cocaine addiction in the '80s. Wills detailed his trials and tribulations in On the Run: The Never Dull and Often Shocking Life of Maury Wills.
- Stat guy Bill James ranks Wills as the 19th best shortstop of all time.