Los Angeles Dodgers star Maury Wills died Monday, the team announced. He was 89.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are saddened by the passing of Dodger legend Maury Wills. Our thoughts are with Wills’ family, teammates and friends. pic.twitter.com/zCtmuSUB0o
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) September 20, 2022
Wills put up excellent numbers in 12 seasons with the Dodgers. His finest season came in 1962, when Wills hit .299/.343/.373, with 104 stolen bases. That performance earned Wills the MVP award. Wills' 104 steals ranks 15th on the all-time single-season list. Lou Brock, Vince Coleman and Rickey Henderson are the only players since Wills to exceed 100 stolen bases in a single season.
Wills was always a threat to swipe a bag once he got on base. He led the majors in stolen bases in six straight seasons. Wills never exceeded 100 steals again, but came close in 1965, swiping 94 bags. He finished in the top-10 of MVP voting three other times, all with the Dodgers. Wills also won two Gold Gloves at shortstop and made seven All-Star teams. MLB played two All-Star games in 1961 and 1962. Wills made both teams in those seasons. He also won three World Series with the Dodgers.
After leaving the game in 1972, Wills received modest support on the Hall of Fame ballot. He received enough votes to remain on the ballot for 15 seasons. He topped out with 40.6% of the vote in 1981. His Hall of Fame case got a second look in 2021, when Wills was one of the 10 players up for induction as part of the Hall's Era Committee. Wills fell short of induction, however.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he had an impactful relationship with Wills, who is "going to be missed."
Dave Roberts on Maury Wills passing away: “Maury was very impactful to me personally and professionally. He’s going to be missed. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to him.”
— Matthew Moreno (@MMoreno1015) September 20, 2022
In 2014, Roberts said Wills was on Roberts' mind when he stole second base in the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees, according to MLB.com's Ian Browne.
And as Roberts got to first and started to size up Rivera, the voice of legendary base stealer Maury Wills rang in his ear. When Roberts was with the Dodgers, Wills would often impart baserunning wisdom to him in spring training.
"I remember Maury Wills on the backfield in Vero Beach," said Roberts. "He said, 'DR, one of these days you're going to have to steal an important base when everyone in the ballpark knows you're gonna steal, but you've got to steal that base and you can't be afraid to steal that base.' So, just kind of trotting out on to the field that night, I was thinking about him. So he was on one side telling me, 'This was your opportunity'. And the other side of my brain is saying, 'You're going to get thrown out, don't get thrown out.' Fortunately Maury's voice won out in my head."
Roberts' steal was credited with kickstarting the Boston Red Sox's rally. The team would bounce back from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Yankees and advance to the World Series. The Red Sox then defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in four games to win it all.