Maury Wills, the Dodgers’ base-stealing shortstop, has died at age 89 | Sport

LOS ANGELES — Maury Wills, who terrorized pitchers with his base-stealing prowess while leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to three World Series championships, has died at age 89.

Mr. Wills died Monday night at home in Sedona, Arizona, the team said Tuesday. The cause of death is not known.

Mr. 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 before retiring.

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

On September 23, 1962, Mr. Wills tied Ty Cobb’s record for stolen bases in a single season with his 97th hit. He became the first player to steal more than 100 bases that season.

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“Maury Wills was one of the most exciting Dodgers of all time,” said team president and CEO Stan Kasten. “He changed baseball with his base running and made the stolen base an important part of the game. He played an important role in the success of the Dodgers with three world championships.

From 1980 to 1981, Mr. Wills unsuccessfully managed the Seattle Mariners, going 26-56 with a .317 winning percentage.

He was the National League MVP in 1962, the same year he was the MVP of the All-Star Game, held in his hometown of Washington, DC.

Mr. Wills led the Netherlands in stolen bases from 1960 to 1965, was a seven-time All-Star and won a Gold Glove in 1961 and 1962.

He was credited with recovering the stolen base as a strategy. His speed made him a constant threat on the basepaths, and he would distract pitchers even when he wasn’t trying to steal. He studied pitchers and their picks carefully when he wasn’t on base. When the pitcher’s throw brought him back to the bag, he became even more determined to steal.

One day in a game against the New York Mets, Mr. Wills was at first base when pitcher Roger Craig made 12 consecutive sacks. On Craig’s next throw, Mr. Wills stole second.

Mr Wills’ tenure as Mariners boss was largely seen as a disaster and he was criticized for his lack of managerial experience. It was evident in the many errors he made, including calling a pitcher when no one was warming up in the bullpen and delaying the game for several minutes in search of a pinch hitter.

Mr. Wills’ biggest mistake came on April 25, 1981, when he ordered the Mariners’ ground crew to extend the batter’s box a foot farther toward the mound than the rules allowed. Oakland manager Billy Martin noticed this and asked umpire Bill Kunkel to investigate.

Kunkel questioned the chief warden, who admitted that Mr. Wills had ordered the change. Mr Wills said this was to help his players stay in the box. Still, Martin suspected it was to give the Mariners an advantage against Oakland’s breaking-ball pitchers. The American League suspended Mr. Wills for two games and fined him $500.

Mr. Wills led the Mariners to a 20-38 record to end the 1980 season, and he was fired on May 6, 1981, with the team in last place at 6-18. A few years later, Mr. Wills admitted that he probably should have gotten more experience as a minor league manager before being hired in the big leagues.

Mr. Wills struggled with addictions to alcohol and cocaine until he got sober in 1989. He credited Dodgers great Don Newcomb with helping him overcome his own drinking problems.

Mr. Wills is survived by his wife Carla and children Barry, Mickey, Bump, Anita, Susan Quam and Wendy Jo Wills. Bump was a former major league second baseman who played for Texas and the Chicago Cubs.

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