Maury Wills, who labored arduous to realize stardom with the Los Angeles Dodgers, then labored simply as arduous to regain dignity and standing inside baseball by means of sobriety, has died, the staff introduced Tuesday.
Wills died Monday night time at his house in Sedona, Ariz. He was 89.
A light-weight-hitting shortstop who spent practically a decade within the minor leagues, Wills honed his restricted expertise, studied pitchers’ tendencies and realized to switch-hit, incomes a shot with the Dodgers, then helped take them to 3 World Sequence titles in 4 tries whereas re-introducing base-stealing to baseball as a significant offensive weapon.
Wills grew to become a valued teacher with the Dodgers in his later years and developed a powerful relationship with a younger base stealer when Dave Roberts was traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Dodgers in December 2001. Roberts stole 118 bases in 2½ seasons earlier than being traded to the Boston Purple Sox, the place he executed perhaps probably the most well-known stolen base in historical past throughout the 2004 American League Championship Sequence.
Roberts, who because the Dodgers supervisor wears No. 30 as a salute to Wills, had a single tear working down his cheek as he spoke about his mentor earlier than the primary sport of a doubleheader Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
“He just loved the game of baseball, loved working and loved the relationship with players,” Roberts stated. “We spent a lot of time together. He showed me how to appreciate my craft and what it is to be a big leaguer. He just loved to teach. So I think a lot of where I get my excitement, my passion and my love for the players is from Maury.”
Roberts stated he “probably” wouldn’t be managing the Dodgers if not for Wills and his affect on him.
“And in a strange way, I think I enriched his post-baseball career as far as watching every game I played or managed,” Roberts stated. “I remember even during games I played, he’d come down from the suite and tell me I need to bunt more, I need to do this or that. … A coach would say, ‘Maury is at the end of the dugout and wants to talk to you.’
“It just showed that he was in it with me, and to this day, he would be there cheering for me.”
Wills performed a key function for the Sixties Dodgers, main the Nationwide League in steals six occasions, incomes two gold gloves for his fielding and beating out Willie Mays for the league’s Most Worthwhile Participant award in ’62, when he startled the baseball world by setting a document with 104 stolen bases, eclipsing the 47-year-old mark of 96 by the immortal Ty Cobb.
Batting leadoff, he hit .299 that season, amassing 208 hits, all however 29 of them singles. On the just-opened Dodger Stadium, although, these singles introduced chants of “Go! Go! Go!” and Wills was glad to oblige, often efficiently.
He was caught stealing solely 13 occasions and later stated that quantity actually ought to have been eight, since 5 occasions he was thrown out when Jim Gilliam, hitting behind him, failed to attach on hit-and-run performs. His prowess on the bottom paths that season resulted in a career-high 130 runs scored.
So feared was Wills that the San Francisco Giants floor crew dug up the basepath and added peat moss and damp soil to gradual him down in a essential late summer season sport in 1962 at Candlestick Park.
Wills chuckled on the reminiscence of the shenanigans years later in a 2021 interview with The Occasions’ Houston Mitchell. “I was flattered that they would go through all that trouble to try to stop me,” he stated.
Wills stole 586 bases in his 14-year profession and, in his retirement, informed the Centre Day by day Occasions of State School, Pa., “When you’re a base stealer, you’re a different cut of guy. … You’ve got to be arrogant to be a good base stealer.”
And in an period when the Dodgers relied on pitching, provided primarily by Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, and runs had been at a premium, each base Wills stole relieved a few of the stress. “Playing the Dodgers,” he as soon as stated, “one run is a mountain.”
He stole second, he stole third and, when the state of affairs known as for it, he stole house. He disrupted pitchers and embarrassed catchers and infielders. Usually, he’d single, steal second, then rating on another person’s single. Or, single, steal second, draw a foul throw and take third, then rating on a flyout.
“Maury made himself a superstar. He taught himself not to make mistakes,” former teammate Norm Sherry informed The Occasions in 1980.
Wills won’t have been as massive a draw as Koufax or Drysdale, however he was proper behind them.
With fame, although, got here temptation, and slick as he was working the bases, Wills couldn’t outrun temptation. In his autobiography, written with Mike Celizic, “On the Run: The Never Dull and Often Shocking Life of Maury Wills,” he claimed to have had amorous affairs with Hollywood stars Doris Day — in her autobiography, “Doris Day: Her Own Story,” she denied it — and Edie Adams. He had a unstable and corrosive six-year relationship with a lady named Judy Aldrich and blamed her for getting him began on heavy ingesting.
He hobnobbed with entertainers, even taking part in Las Vegas gigs himself, singing whereas accompanying himself on banjo, guitar or ukulele, however wasn’t all the time a clubhouse favourite, regardless that he was the staff captain.
“A lot of our ballplayers just plain didn’t hit it off with him,” then Dodgers common supervisor Buzzie Bavasi informed Sports activities Illustrated after Wills was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. “Maybe he was a little too intense for their taste, I don’t know.”
Nonetheless, Wills was a productive participant on a successful staff and may effectively have spent his whole taking part in profession with the Dodgers — he did end with them after stints at Pittsburgh and Montreal — had it not been for an escapade after the 1966 season.
Having simply been swept within the World Sequence by the Baltimore Orioles, the Dodgers launched into a barnstorming journey to Japan. Wills, who had been bothered by a midseason knee harm, stated the knee was hurting and requested to depart the tour, return to Los Angeles and get therapy. Denied permission, he left anyway.
As a substitute of flying on to Los Angeles and getting therapy, he stopped for per week in Honolulu, the place he joined singer Don Ho in his act, taking part in his banjo, singing and joking. Bavasi, vacationing in Hawaii along with his spouse, occurred to catch the act one night and shortly thereafter Wills was traded to Pittsburgh.
Wills equaled his profession excessive with a .302 batting common in 1967, his first 12 months with the Pirates and continued to be a productive participant all through his 30’s. In 1971 at age 38 he batted .281 with 169 hits in 149 video games for the Dodgers. He was launched after the 1972 season with 2,134 profession hits and 586 stolen bases.
Throughout his taking part in days, Wills had spent a number of winters as supervisor of a Mexican League staff and it was his hope that he would proceed his profession as a significant league supervisor. He turned down the San Francisco Giants, who provided him a one-year contract in 1977, and was engaged on a broadcasting profession and serving as a part-time base-running coach when he lastly acquired his managerial shot.
The Seattle Mariners, an growth staff in its fourth desultory season, fired Darrell Johnson in early August 1980 and employed Wills. to bail them out. On his first night time on the helm, the Mariners misplaced to the Angels, 8-3, falling into final place within the American League West. That was nearly as good because it acquired for Wills with the Mariners. They completed final, then acquired the 1981 season off to a 6-18 begin, their worst ever, and Wills was passed by early Could.
That, coupled along with his deteriorating relationship with Aldrich, despatched him right into a tailspin. He binged on booze and cocaine, locking himself in his home alone, staying excessive for days at a time, protecting the home windows with blankets, hallucinating, weathering intense paranoia, considering suicide.
Wills estimated that in a single 12 months, he spent $1 million on cocaine — and though he grew to become sober in 1989, that descent into darkness might need been a part of the rationale he has not been elected to baseball’s Corridor of Fame. He was rejected 15 occasions by the Baseball Writers Assn. of America and one other 10 occasions by a veterans’ committee.
“I do believe I will be inducted,” Wills informed The Occasions in 2016. “The question is whether they are going to induct me before I die.”
The Dodgers helped get him right into a drug-treatment program, however Wills walked out and continued to make use of medicine till he started a relationship with Angela George, who helped him get right into a rehab clinic. Wills, once more with help from the Dodgers, finally acquired sober in 1989, and he and George later married.
“Some people get old but never grow up,” Wills stated of his darkish days. “That’s what happened to Maury Wills. In those three years, I aged 15 years.”
Maurice Morning Wills, considered one of 13 youngsters, was born Oct. 2, 1932, in Washington, D.C. He determined to grow to be a baseball participant after attending a baseball clinic performed by Gerry Priddy, a significant league infielder taking part in for the Washington Senators.
“I didn’t own a pair of shoes,” Wills informed the Nice Falls (Mont.) Tribune in 2001. “Until that man came to our projects, I didn’t even know we had major league baseball in Washington. But he singled me out. He told me I had some talent. And right then and there, at age 10, I knew I wanted to be a major league player.”
He signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers at 17 and made his debut with them a decade later.
After regaining sobriety, he resumed his teaching duties, most lately with the Dodgers, and devoted appreciable time to drug and alcohol schooling. Wills appeared for the primary time as a candidate on the Nationwide Baseball Corridor of Fame’s Golden Period Committee poll in 2015. Election required 12 votes and Wills obtained 9.
On the Dodgers’ spring coaching facility in Vero Seashore, Fla., Wills taught superior baserunning and bunting methods from an space affectionately known as “Maury’s Pit.” He additionally served as shade commentator for the Fargo-Moorhead (N.D.) RedHawks within the unbiased American Assn. for 22 years, retiring in 2017.
He credited the low-key ambiance in North Dakota for serving to him preserve sobriety.
“I’m feeling free,” Wills informed The Occasions’ Kurt Streeter in 2008. “Totally free. No ill feelings, no resentments. … Peace.”
He’s survived by his spouse, Carla, and 6 youngsters — Barry Wills, Micki Wills, Bump Wills, Anita Wills, Susan Quam and Wendi Jo Wills.
Kupper is a former Occasions employees author.
Assistant sports activities editor Steve Henson contributed to this report.