Maury Wills, a Los Angeles Dodgers icon and one of the greatest base stealers in baseball history, died Monday night at his home in Arizona, the team announced. He was 89. The Dodgers will wear a patch on their jerseys to honor Mills the rest of the season.
“Maury Wills was one of the most exciting Dodgers of all-time,” Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten said in a statement. “He changed baseball with his base-running and made the stolen base an important part of the game. He was very instrumental in the success of the Dodgers with three world championships.”
A seven-time All-Star and the 1962 National League MVP, Wills helped return to the stolen base to prominence during a 14-year career that spanned 1959-72. He stole 104 bases in 1962, at the time the most by an AL or NL player in the 20th century, and finished his career with 586 steals. Wills is 20th on the career stolen base leaderboard.
Wills grew up in Washington, D.C. and spent eight seasons in the minor leagues before debuting with the Dodgers at age 26 in 1959. The speedy shortstop helped Los Angeles win the World Series that season, and the next year he became the first NL player to steal 50 bases in a season since Hall of Famer Max Carey in 1923.
During his peak from 1960-69, Wills hit .286/.335/.337 and averaged 54 stolen bases per year. He led the Dodgers to championships in 1959, 1963, and 1965, plus another NL pennant in 1966. During his MVP season Wills hit .299/.347/.373 with those 104 stolen bases. Wills retired with 2,134 career hits and led his league in steals every year from 1960-65.
Following a playing career that included stints with the Pirates (1967-68) and Expos (1969), as well as a return to the Dodgers (1969-72), Wills spent some time broadcasting and as a baserunning instructor with multiple teams, and also had an ill-fated stint as Mariners manager from 1980-81. He worked as a representative of the Dodgers Legends Bureau in recent years.
Wills appeared on the Baseball Writers Association of America’s Hall of Fame ballot every year from 1978-92, though he never received more than 40.6 percent of the vote, well short of the 75 percent needed for induction. Wills also appeared on the 2014 and 2022 Golden Eras Committee ballot, but again did not receive enough support to enter the Hall of Fame.
Wills is survived by his wife, Carla, and six children.