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Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Los Angeles Dodgers great Maury Wills, NL MVP in 1962, dies at age 89

Maury Wills, who intimidated pitchers with his base-stealing prowess as a shortstop for the Los Angeles Dodgers on three World Series championship teams, has died. He was 89.

Wills died Monday night at home in Sedona, Arizona, the team said Tuesday after being informed by family members. No cause of death was given.

Wills played on World Series title teams in 1959, 1963 and 1965 during his first eight seasons with the Dodgers. He also played for Pittsburgh and Montreal before returning to the Dodgers from 1969 to 1972, when he retired.

During his 14-year career, Wills batted .281 with 2,134 hits and 586 stolen bases in 1,942 games.

He was the National League MVP in 1962, led the NL in stolen bases 1960-65, was a seven-time All-Star selection and won Gold Glove Awards in 1961 and 1962.

Wills had an ill-fated stint managing the Seattle Mariners from 1980 to 1981, going 26-56 with a winning percentage of .317.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 20, 2022 at 01:50 PM | 28 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: maury wills, obituaries

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   1. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 20, 2022 at 01:58 PM (#6097066)
RIP
   2. vortex of dissipation Posted: September 20, 2022 at 01:59 PM (#6097067)
Wills hit only 20 HR in 14 seasons, but his lack of doubles is even more noteworthy. He was regularly getting 600+ PA in a season, but never cracked the 20 double mark. You'd think with his speed, he'd be able to stretch a few more singles into doubles...
   3. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 20, 2022 at 02:21 PM (#6097072)
In his MVP year of 1962 Wills had only 13 doubles, but led the NL with 10 triples.

In hindsight his MVP award seems a huge stretch, but at the time it wasn't that controversial, and it was probably due to the fact that his more traditional rivals (Mays, Tommy Davis and Frank Robinson) split the votes among them, while a 4th rival (Drysdale) wound up with the CYA as a consolation prize.
   4. cHiEf iMpaCt oFfiCEr JE Posted: September 20, 2022 at 02:29 PM (#6097075)
In hindsight his MVP award seems a huge stretch, but at the time it wasn't that controversial, and it was probably due to the fact that his more traditional rivals (Mays, Tommy Davis and Frank Robinson) split the votes among them, while a 4th rival (Drysdale) wound up with the CYA as a consolation prize.
And Willie McCovey was still not permitted to play every day.
   5. The Duke Posted: September 20, 2022 at 02:32 PM (#6097076)
It's been interesting to see how much HOF support Maury still has. I think he still has a chance. Not sure why this is other than he was such a big face of baseball for a few years. I guess the "Fame" part flows deeply in Maury's candidacy. Pos has him as the 53rd best eligible player not in the Hall and that list includes PEDrs, negro league players, rose:shoeless Joe etc. that's hard to believe. Here's Pos's description:


"But Wills did spark a lot of excitement when he ran with abandon in the 1960s. All in all, Maury Wills was a below-average hitter with almost no power. He was probably about average as a defender. It is his impact as a pioneering base stealer that defines his case for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

That impact is hard to define and hard to prove. So it is wonderful the Wills did have a clear and documented impact on one of the most famous baseball plays of the last 50 years."

Not the best description of a Hall of Famer I've seen. Lou Brock, himself a weak HOF, is a better version of Maury.

   6. BDC Posted: September 20, 2022 at 02:39 PM (#6097078)
RIP. Among many other achievements, Wills was the first African-American to play for the Ft. Worth Cats of the Texas League (in 1955). I saw him honored there before a game of the indie club of the same name, many years ago now.
   7. Mefisto Posted: September 20, 2022 at 02:54 PM (#6097080)
That 1962 MVP was probably not the worst ever, but it was pretty bad.
   8. The Yankee Clapper Posted: September 20, 2022 at 03:02 PM (#6097087)
In hindsight his MVP award seems a huge stretch, but at the time it wasn't that controversial, and it was probably due to the fact that his more traditional rivals (Mays, Tommy Davis and Frank Robinson) split the votes among them, while a 4th rival (Drysdale) wound up with the CYA as a consolation prize.
That may have been the peak of [over]valuing stolen bases, although Wills was successful 89% of the time that season, which isn’t too shabby. Breaking a MLB record that had been held for almost 50 years, by Ty Cobb no less, also contributed to the sense that Wills had a special season. We now know it was ‘only’ worth 6.0 WAR. Still, that’s pretty good for a guy under 100 OPS, maybe a record or close to?
   9. djordan Posted: September 20, 2022 at 03:15 PM (#6097091)
If you got all up in a lather about Maury's 1962 MVP, you're just gonna love that he placed sixth in the '71 NL voting for his .281/.323/.329 slash line.
   10. SoSH U at work Posted: September 20, 2022 at 03:27 PM (#6097095)
We now know it was ‘only’ worth 6.0 WAR. Still, that’s pretty good for a guy under 100 OPS, maybe a record or close to?


Ozzie got to 6.6 in 1988.

   11. Itchy Row Posted: September 20, 2022 at 03:29 PM (#6097096)
With 39.6 WAR, he becomes the most valuable player on the 2022 death team.
   12. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: September 20, 2022 at 03:37 PM (#6097100)
That may have been the peak of [over]valuing stolen bases, although Wills was successful 89% of the time that season, which isn’t too shabby.

Not shabby at all. Wills had +19 baserunning runs that year. Even Ichiro never did that!
   13. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: September 20, 2022 at 03:41 PM (#6097102)
Ozzie got to 6.6 in 1988.


He was even better the following year: 7.3 with a 97 OPS+

Others to have more than 6:

Kevin Kiermeier in 2015 - 7.1, 99

Darin Erstad in 2002 - 6.3, 86

Devon White in 1992 - 6.2, 90

Pee Wee Reese in 1942 - 6.2, 98

   14. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: September 20, 2022 at 03:42 PM (#6097104)
Not shabby at all. Wills had +19 baserunning runs that year. Even Ichiro never did that!


He could have...
   15. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 20, 2022 at 04:02 PM (#6097107)
IIRC, Bill James called him the worst manager ever. He famously asked the groundscrew to make the batters box extra large so his team had more time to figure out the opponent's curve.

Dorktown covered him briefly in their Mariners series starting here.

Anyway, RIP!
   16. SandyRiver Posted: September 20, 2022 at 04:07 PM (#6097108)
Wills hit only 20 HR in 14 seasons,

My first visit to the Polo Grounds came on Memorial Day in 1962, the initial revisit of the Dodgers (or SF) to NYC, and the place was utterly packed. When Wills came up in the top of the 5th, he'd hit one lonely HR in his first 1,727 PA. Batting left, he lined one into the gap that rolled to the right-center corner about 450' away and he easily circled the bases, just the kind of HR one might expect from the little speedster. In the 9th against an LHP, he jacked one into the nearby LF seats (not a cheapie as it went way up into the 2nd deck) and so tripled his lifetime dingers with switch HRs.

That game was also notable as perhaps Sandy Koufax' worst CG win. He allowed 13 hits and walked 3 (had 10K), facing 43 batters in the 13-6 victory. (Then in the middle of G2 the Dodgers led off an inning with 3 straight scorched LDs. Mets SS Elio Chacon snagged the 3rd one in his webbing, flipped it to Charlie Neal, thence to Hodges for a TP that had the whole stadium shaking. Mets lost that one, too.)
   17. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 20, 2022 at 04:23 PM (#6097112)
RIP. Among many other achievements, Wills was the first African-American to play for the Ft. Worth Cats of the Texas League (in 1955). I saw him honored there before a game of the indie club of the same name, many years ago now.

FWIW Wills was also likely the best player ever to come out of Washington, D. C. (Cardozo High School) Not that that's saying a whole lot.

-----------------

That game was also notable as perhaps Sandy Koufax' worst CG win.

This reminds me of a record I just discovered earlier today: In 1951 Don Newcombe threw 18 complete games, and his record in them was 18 and 0. Too bad he didn't get to finish his last game of that year.
   18. sanny manguillen Posted: September 20, 2022 at 04:41 PM (#6097114)
With 39.6 WAR, he becomes the most valuable player on the 2022 death team.


He's also the first manager to go this year
   19. Walt Davis Posted: September 20, 2022 at 04:48 PM (#6097117)
Wills has done the full circuit from over-rated to under-rated. His career was a very solid 40 WAR in just over 8300 PA, all despite not getting to play until he was 27. He was a bit above-average in that age 27 year and was (with one minor exception) above-average in every season through age 36. Looking at his minors stats, it's hard to argue he should have been up earlier but when you're above-average immediately (even a down-ballot MVP vote), it suggests you could have at least had some counting stat padding there at the beginning (admittedly, his half-season at 26 suggests not). I suspect that in the plodding HR/BB-heavy 50s baseball, a guy like Wills could get buried.

Not that another 1000 PA and 5 WAR would make much difference to his HoF case. But if the HoF has room for Maz's glove (and one famous HR) and Hodges' consistency (and one managerial miracle), I guess I won't mind if they decide to find roome for Maury's legs (and one famous record-breaking season).
   20. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: September 20, 2022 at 05:23 PM (#6097129)
In his MVP year of 1962 Wills had only 13 doubles, but led the NL with 10 triples.

I figured "that there gots ta be a record or sumpin'", but, no, there were a lot of guys who hit less than 13 doubles in a year they were double digits in triples, especially in the dead ball era (Highie Jennings had just three doubles in 1899 to go with his twelve triples). More recently, Deion Sanders had only six doubles (fewest in this category since WW2) and 14 triples in 1992.

Wills was also likely the best player ever to come out of Washington, D. C.

The All-DC team:

1B: Lu Blue
2B: Bump Willis [yes, really]
3B: Art Devlin
SS: Maury Willis [also (gulp) manager]
LF: Algie McBride
CF: Milt Thompson
RF: Bubba Morton
C: Ryan Hanigan [one of only two on this squad to play in the 21st Century]
DH: Don Money
SP: Doc White [also backup OF], Billy Taylor, Bill Wise
SP/RP: Johnny Klippstein [the only player on the team who actually played for Washington, with the expansion Senators in '61]
RP: Clay Kirby, Brendan Donnelly [see Hanigan above]
   21. The Duke Posted: September 20, 2022 at 05:33 PM (#6097134)
Maury's relevance may surge soon as the new rules will tilt the game back towards base burglars. I read that the minor league gross stats suggest that base stealing attempts are up 10% with higher success rates, so many more stolen bases. This is before teams start drafting for players that will succeed in the new environment.
   22. AndrewJ Posted: September 20, 2022 at 07:02 PM (#6097162)
Forty years ago this autumn I purchased the K-Mart 20th anniversary baseball card set, a great-looking collection of copies of cards of league MVPs from 1962-81. The 1962 card for Maury Wills always seemed a bit… off. Turns out there was no actual Topps card for Maury until 1968, because he’d had a dispute with the company since his days in the minors. Keith Olbermann discussed this at length during his talk at SABR47 in 2017.
   23. Howie Menckel Posted: September 20, 2022 at 07:04 PM (#6097163)
2B: Bump Willis [yes, really]
SS: Maury Willis [also (gulp) manager]

"watchoo talkin' about, Willis - Wills?"

;)

...........

a "1962 Wills Topps card" from a 1970s set

Topps had a "1951-75 MVPs" 25-card set-within-the-main-set, but halfway thru they had this Wills conundrum - so they made one up to go with 1962 AL MVP Mickey Mantle

hey, it's in the K-mart set, too !

if you look real close, there are a couple of differences, though

and I see Wills is in the 1963 Fleer set that gave you a cookie instead of gum !
Topps sued and won, so only the 66-card first series went public....

Wills in the 1963 Fleer set
   24. Howie Menckel Posted: September 20, 2022 at 07:16 PM (#6097167)
   25. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 20, 2022 at 07:47 PM (#6097169)
if you look real close, there are a couple of differences, though
Huh. Never noticed that before.
   26. Rally Posted: September 20, 2022 at 08:40 PM (#6097177)
Not shabby at all. Wills had +19 baserunning runs that year. Even Ichiro never did that!


He may not have been the deserving MVP in 62 but that is the most valuable base stealing season, at least among the seasons we have full stats for.
   27. Cooper Nielson Posted: September 20, 2022 at 11:59 PM (#6097222)
He was even better the following year: 7.3 with a 97 OPS+

Others to have more than 6:

Kevin Kiermeier in 2015 - 7.1, 99
Darin Erstad in 2002 - 6.3, 86
Devon White in 1992 - 6.2, 90
Pee Wee Reese in 1942 - 6.2, 98


We did a similar exercise a few months ago looking for the best seasons from guys with OBP below .300.

Andrelton Simmons in 2013 had 5.8 WAR with a 90 OPS+, two more years with over 4 WAR and under 100 OPS+.
Devon White, as noted above, had a bunch of good WAR seasons with sub-100 OPS+ and/or sub-.300 OBP.
Mark Belanger in 1976 had a career-best OPS+ of 100 (I don't know if it was rounded up or rounded down -- it might count!) and a career best 6.5 WAR.
   28. Walt Davis Posted: September 21, 2022 at 09:00 PM (#6097427)
base stealing attempts are up 10% with higher success rates, so many more stolen bases.

A 10% increase in attempts in 2021 would have been a whopping 10 more attempts per team with give or take 7.5 more SBs. Obviously folks can apply their own standards of whether one more SB every 20 games or so constitutes "many more."

Even back in, say, 1977, a 10% increase in attempts would have been about 19 per team with about 12 successful.

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