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Maury Wills: The Thief o’ Bags Dad 

He brought speed back to the game. Up until he was called up to replace Don Zimmer as the Dodgers SS, his career was one long, 9 years, minor league bus ride. He was a decent hitter, .276, with no power, 40 HR’s total in 9 seasons.

His stolen base percentage in the minors was excellent, 281 steals and only caught 13 times. He did not walk a lot, but he did not strike out much either. He wasn’t the best defender at SS, but he was more than adequate. He would earn two gold gloves in the majors.

Maurice Morning Wills, born in Washington D.C. on October 2, 1932. His father, Guy, worked in the D.C. Navy yard as a machinist and also was a part time minister. His mom, Mable, worked as an elevator operator.

He had 12 siblings, four brothers and eight sisters. They all lived together in the Anacostia neighborhood. Maury began playing organized baseball at 14 with a local semi-pro league. He starred in baseball, basketball and football at Cardozo High School in D.C. He earned all-city honors in all three sports his sophomore, junior and senior years.

As a baseball player, Wills pitched and played third base. He was the quarterback and safety on the football team and several colleges wanted him for his football skills.

He also married his high school sweetheart his senior year, Gertrude Elliot, they would have six children and later divorce.

But Wills loved baseball and decided to try for a pro career in that sport. Maury was signed by the Dodgers scouts, Rex Bowen and John Curry. He had hoped for a 6000 dollar bonus, but they offered a new suit of clothes. Negotiations continued, finally the scouts got up to leave, Bowen offered 500 dollars, take it or leave it.

After a few seconds, Maury’s father Guy said, we’ll take it. Maury reported to Hornell, of the Class-D PONY League in 1951. He hit .280 and stole 54 bases. He was promoted to Class-C, Santa Barbara of the California League for 1952, but he felt comfortable in NY and asked to stay another year. He stole 54 again and hit .300.

In 1953, He was promoted to Pueblo, the Dodgers Class-A team in the Western League, but also spent time at Class-B Miami. Combined he hit .286 in 111 games and had 28 steals.

He spent 54 in Pueblo and had a good season, .279 and 28 more steals. In 55, he was sent to AA Fort Worth, but he struggled badly and was sent back to Pueblo for 1956. His confidence had taken a hit with his .220 performance at Ft. Worth. But he rebounded in 56 and hit .302.

His contract was purchased by the Seattle Rainiers, a AAA team in the PCL, on a conditional basis. He hit .267 there in 57 and stole 21 bases. The Dodgers exercised their claim on the journeyman prospect and sent him to AAA Spokane in 1958.

His manager at Spokane was former big leaguer Bobby Bragan. Wills later said that Bragan was a mentor. He took a huge interest in me and made my baseball life worth living. He also encouraged the 25 year old Wills to switch hit. Left-handed hitters are closer to first base, so why not try it?

Wills hit .253 at Spokane and stole 25 bases. Seattle was part of the Reds organization, so on Maury’s transaction page, it shows he was sent back to the Dodgers before the 58 season in an unknown transaction. We do know that his purchase by Seattle was conditional and the condition was probably the Dodgers right to reclaim him.

The winter of 58 saw Maury sent to the Tigers in October on a conditional deal. He probably thought he was going to get a chance at a major league job with the Tigers. So Maury went to spring training as a Tiger.

Playing mostly in B games, he hit over .400 and stole 8 bases. But unfortunately, the Tigers had just traded for Rocky Bridges, and Wills was returned to the Dodgers and sent to Spokane again on April 2nd.

Wills was not despondent. He said that being in spring training with the Tigers with a chance to play in the majors was his best life experience up to that point.

This is not related to this story, but how would the Dodgers 59 championship run have been without Wills stepping in for Zimmer?

Maury went back to Spokane and was doing well, hitting .313. Bob Lillis had been the starting SS, but started off slowly, Zimmer took over but in June, he broke a toe. Bragan told the Dodgers that Wills was ready and he was called up.

Maury would start 70 games at short for the Dodgers and play 82 games at the position. His fielding pct was .960. He made 12 errors in 353 chances. But take that with a grain of salt as the fields were not as manicured as they are today, and the gloves were smaller.

Maury hit .260 with no homers and 7 driven in. He stole 7 and was caught 3 times. He would hit .250 with one steal in the World Series. Not a great debut, but considering who had been playing the position before he arrived, he was an improvement.

The Dodgers made Wills the de facto starting SS the following April when they traded Zimmer to the Cubs, bringing back 3 players, one a SS, John Goryl, and a pitcher, Ron Perranoski, who would impact Dodger teams in the future.

Wills started off slowly. Alston had started pinch hitting for him as early as the third inning. In frustration, he went to batting coach, Pete Reiser, and asked for help. Reiser told him to meet him at the coliseum early the next morning.

Under a blazing sun, the two men worked alone, with Reiser throwing pitch after pitch and telling Wills to hit it to the opposite field. At one point, Wills began to complain about the heat. Reiser replied” Would you rather take the heat here in L.A., or go back to the bus and wool shirt circuit?”

Wills kept working and they did it for two weeks straight. It did not happen right away as Reiser had told him, but then he began to hit, his BA climbed and he earned his starting job back. He finished with 50 steals, a .292 BA, and was 17th in the MVP voting.

He made 40 errors in 1960. He was also caught 12 times trying to steal. But the 60 Dodgers were not contenders. They finished in 4th place, 13 games behind.

Wills had another good season in 61, his BA dropped a little to .282. But he was named to both All-Star squads, MLB played two All-Star games in 61 and 62. He also hit his first career homer. He earned his first Gold Glove, even though he had 29 errors. And he was 9th in the MVP vote.

LA moved up to second, and finished four games back of eventual World Champion Pittsburgh. The Dodgers moved out of the coliseum to their new Dodger Stadium home for the 1962 season. There were now 10 teams in the NL with the expansion Mets and Astros joining the league, and the season expanded to 162 games.

The AL had expanded the year before with the addition of the new Angels franchise and the new Senators team taking over in DC for the team that went to Minnesota and became the Twins. Controversy over the new length of the season popped up when Roger Maris hit 61 homers to break Babe Ruth’s record, but the commissioner said that he had not broken the record in 154 games, so an asterisk was added.

But in LA, the Dodgers were happy to be in a real ballpark again. Led by Tommy Davis, who would win the first of two batting titles, Frank Howard, Wills, who would set a new stolen base record, and the pitching of Podres, Koufax and Drysdale, the Dodgers were in first place for much of the year.

In Dodger Stadium, chants of go go go would echo every time Wills got on base. And the steals kept piling up. It looked as though the Dodgers were going to cruise to the pennant.

Koufax had matched his 18 strikeout game with a similar performance against the Cubs on April 24th. He had his first no-hitter over the Mets in June, and he hit his first MLB homer off of Warren Spahn in June. And unbeknownst to most, he was doing all of this with an injured hand.

He had been jammed on a pitch in April. And his fingers would get numb. By July, his whole hand was getting numb. His index finger was cold and white. But since he was pitching so well, he ignored the problem.

But in a start in Cincinnati, his finger split wide open after one inning. A vascular specialist determined that he had crushed an artery. 10 days of treatment with an experimental medicine cleared up the problem and avoided the possibility of amputation.

He returned in September, but was rusty and ineffective, and the Giants caught LA forcing a playoff. We all know and remember what happened then.

With the season over, Wills finished with a .299 average, 104 steals and only caught 13 times. He had 208 hits and hit 6 homers. Fairly or unfairly, he won the NL MVP award over Willie Mays by 7 points. Mays had hit .304 with 49 homers and 141 driven in for the pennant winning Giants.

Wills Steals #104 Against The Giants

 

He also won his second Gold Glove, despite 36 errors, and was elected to both All-Star teams. For his efforts, the Dodgers gave him a 10,000 dollar raise to 45,000 dollars.

Off the field, Wills enjoyed playing his banjo. He also later wrote in his book that he and Doris Day had been dating. Day was a huge Dodger fan, and attended many games. Wills said they met there and began dating.

Well the problem was that both Day and Wills were married. The other problem was that Day was white and Wills, black. This was a problem in the early 60’s. Bavasi ordered Wills to stop seeing Day. Wills complied and kept on running during the season.

In reality, stealing all of those bases took a toll on Wills physically. His hamstrings burned from all the starting and stopping. His thighs and legs were bruised from what we used to call strawberries you would get when sliding into a base.

Wills would say later that the physical beating he took was something he did not want to endure again. He would hit .302 in 63 and steal 40 bases, but he was caught 19 times and only played in 133 games. But the Dodgers, a more pitching reliant team, with some new players, won the pennant behind Koufax and Drysdale and then swept the Yankees in four. Maury had a forgettable series hitting .133 with one bag and one run scored.

Maury regressed some in 64, although he did steal 53 bases and led the league for the fifth straight year. The Dodgers, with Koufax again sustaining an injury that curtailed his season, dropped to 6th place, 13 games back of the Cardinals.

Now 32 entering the 1965 season, Wills expected better things in 65. He got his wish. Koufax again led the charge, he won 26 games and struck out 382 batters. A mark that would stand until Nolan Ryan struck out 383. Drysdale won 23. The Dodgers overcame the loss of Tommy Davis and a huge power drop and won the pennant over the Giants by two games.

Maury had a very good season with a .286 average, 94 steals to lead the league for the sixth straight and last time in his career. He also scored 92 runs. In the World Series, he hit .367 against the Twins, he stole three, but was caught twice. Koufax was brilliant going 2-1 with a 0.38 ERA as the Dodgers prevailed in 7 games.

1966 was another pennant winning year for the Dodgers. But the pitchers and catchers were getting wise to Maury’s running ability. Wills himself admitted that strong armed catchers like Jerry Grote and Randy Hundley curtailed his running game with their accurate throws.

Maury hit .273, and he stole 38 bases, but he was caught 24 times. He never did walk a lot, but his OBP dropped to .308. Wills and the rest of the Dodgers had a terrible World Series and were swept by the Orioles.

Few knew at the time that it would be the last series as a Dodger for Wills or Koufax. Koufax retired in November, irking the Dodger front office who had asked him to postpone his announcement so they could trade for a replacement.

Walter O’Malley had arranged a goodwill trip to Japan. Several players asked permission to skip the trip including Wills. His legs ached and he wanted them to be checked by doctors in Los Angeles.

O’Malley told the SS he had to go. So Wills went. He played in a few games and then left without permission. But instead of going straight back to the mainland, he stopped in Hawaii and played a few shows with Don Ho and Sammy Davis Jr.

He said ” Right now I am here relaxing and I do not know when I will return to the mainland. He then added, rather brazenly, ” The Japanese trip was important to Mr. O’Malley, and I suppose he is bitter at me for leaving.”

That was an understatement. O’Malley was already fuming over Koufax announcing his retirement on the 18th of November, ordering Bavasi to ship Wills out of Los Angeles.

Quoting O’Malley,

” He not only embarrassed the Dodgers, he embarrassed the nation of Japan. On December 1st, following O’Malley’s orders, Bavasi traded Wills to the Pirates for third baseman Bob Bailey and SS, Gene Michael. Wills was stunned. ” I have been a Dodger all my life, I do not want to be traded.” 

Maury would play in Pittsburgh for two seasons. He hit .290 in those two seasons and stole 81 bases, including 50 or more for the fifth time in his career with 52 in 68.

After the 68 season, the NL expanded again adding Montreal and San Diego. Wills was the 11th pick by the expansion Expos. Wills did not like playing in Montreal and it showed. He played like he did not care. The owner, Steven Bronfman lit into the SS. Wills even retired from the team for a short time. But by June, fed up with him, the Expos traded him back to the Dodgers on June 11th along with outfielder Manny Mota for Ron Fairly and Paul Popovich.

Dodgers GM Al Campanis had campaigned to bring back Wills. O’Malley wasn’t as sure. Maury was ecstatic. He heard the news while the Expos were in San Diego to play the Padres. He jumped in his car and drove to Los Angeles for that night’s game

Apparently all was forgiven. There was a note from O’Malley waiting for him in the clubhouse that read “Welcome Back Maury”. He was also welcomed back by Don Sutton.

” The minute he walked into the clubhouse, there was a different air in the room. We knew we had a guy who would take charge and bust his tail for us.”

Back in his comfort zone, Wills did not disappoint. He hit .297 in LA, and stole 25 more bases to give him 40 for the season.

The 69 team finished fourth, 8 games back, but had their first winning season since 66. In 70 the team finished 2nd, 14.5 games back, Maury hit .270 with 28 steals. But he was 38 now, and played in 132 games. When Maury did not start, it was prize prospect Billy Grabarkewitz who took his place. Grabby was the heir apparent.

In 71 the Dodgers finished second, one game behind the Giants. Dick Allen, Willie D., Sutton, Osteen, and Parker led the way. There was a young outfielder from Kansas who played in 91 games, Bill Russell. He was now the heir apparent as they traded Grabarkewitz to the Angels after the season in the Frank Robinson trade.

They held a Maury Wills day late in the season, and Wills told the crowd he did not plan on retiring. But in 1972, they basically paid him to sit on the bench. He played in only 71 games and hit a paltry .129. He got the news of his release that winter from a newsman while playing golf. He was shocked, he felt he could still play.

Instead, he took a job with NBC’s Game of the week. Wills final stat line was 1942 games, 7588 at bats, 1067 runs scored, 2134 hits, 177 doubles, 77 triples and 20 home runs. He drove in 458 and batted .281 for his career. He stole 586 bases and was caught 208 times.

His son Bump, broke into baseball with the Texas Rangers in 1977 playing six years in the majors. Maury let it be known that he wanted to manage in the majors. Buzzie Bavasi encouraged him to start in the minors. But in 1980, the Seattle Mariners thought he was ready.

They hired him to replace the fired Darrell Johnson in August. Seattle was mired in last place and had lost 20 of their last 24 games when Wills took over. He felt it would not take more than 10 days to see what he had to work with. But the losing continued.

It did not get any easier in 81. It was a bad team, he said. They did not play sound baseball. Wills was let go after a brutal 6-18 start. Many of his players were relieved. Several made their feelings known to the press including Richie Zisk who said the atmosphere in the clubhouse was depressing and something needed to change.

He was also chastised for some of his strange decisions. One time he called for a relief pitcher, but no one was warming up in the pen. On another occasion, he said Leon Roberts was his starting center fielder. The problem? Roberts had been traded a month earlier.

What compounded this was that Maury blamed his mistakes on others. Later he would reconsider Bavasi’s advice. I should have really started in the minors to learn how to organize and delegate authority.

But there was a deeper problem. Maury had descended into a life of drug and alcohol abuse. Sometimes he was high for as much as 10 days at a time. He spent over 1 million dollars on cocaine and he would lock himself into his room alone for months.

He was arrested by LAPD in December of 1983 for suspicion of car theft and cocaine possession. He went in and out of rehab several times. He would write in one of his books, I did not care if I died.

Former Dodgers, Tommy Davis, and Don Newcombe, along with Fred Claire, encouraged him to get sober. The Dodgers invited him to spring training in 2001 as a baserunning and bunting instructor. He would serve in that capacity for 15 years.

He also coached and served as a broadcast analyst for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, an independent team. The D.C. Sports Hall of Fame honored him in 2013 and a field in his hometown was named after him.

Wills said he was no longer worried about making it to baseball’s Hall of Fame. He had been on the ballot for 15 years and never received more than 40.6% of the vote. In 2014 he missed out making the hall on the ballot of the Golden Age committee which had replaced the old veterans committee.

As of 2018 he was living in Sedona Arizona. He was at peace after all the decades of turmoil which had plagued him. He told an LA Times reporter,

“Through my program of recovery, I have learned to be grateful for where I am, and I now have a wonderful life.”

Maury died on September 19th, 2022, at his home in Sedona, surrounded by family. He was 89. Dave Roberts remembered Maury as a friend and mentor. He taught him the art of base stealing until he was traded to the Red Sox in 2004.

On a personal note, I saw Maury play many times and the excitement in the ballpark was always high when he got on base. I also believe Maury belongs in the Hall of Fame. My reasons are simple. He revitalized the stolen base and made it once again a feared weapon. He inspired players like Lou Brock, Vince Colemand and Ricky Henderson to up their game.

But I also feel if a guy like Bill Mazeroski, who is in because of his glove and not his bat, and for winning one championship, Maury, who played on three championship teams, won an MVP award, and was the teams on field leader and spark plug, should be there too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Watford Dodger

Michael that was a wonderful read.

Being 57 I don’t remember him playing, but obviously I saw him in a coaching position.
However reading all you guys comments about him over the years, and the affection universally bestowed on him made me think that there must be a good reason. Well now I know, so thank you.

It struck me the length of his career, from the
many years of almost Journeyman status, to winning World Series and breaking records. What a rollercoaster ride, and what a life.No wonder he is liked and remembered by so many.

Never has there been so much anticipation or expectation going into a season, and rightly so.
I know it’s been mentioned but I guess that it really is shit or bust for Doc. It’s hard to see anything other that a Parade sufficing in 24.
I’m rather optimistic, and managed to get a tasty 7/1 on a WS win for my annual Dodger bet immediately after the Rangers won in November, before the incredible shopping spree by AF. They are half that price now!

Thanks again Michael, and thanks for your efforts.

Oldbear48

My pleasure, anytime

Duke Not Snider

Kudo for the headline!
“Thief of Bags Dad”
Nice.
And now I need to read this…

Oldbear48

I actually stole that. I cannot remember who the writer was, but back in the early 60’s, a writer called him that. It was a play on words as there was a movie out at the time starring Steve Reeves, The Thief of Bagdad. But instead of using of, he used O.

Duke Not Snider

Nah, you didn’t steal it.
You “sampled” it.

Oldbear48

Yeah, I guess I did.

Duke Not Snider

Maury is definitely HOF caliber for all the reasons you cite. No HOF omission bothers me more.
He was a force who paved the way for guys like Brock, Rickey Henderson and Coleman. And he did it even though he spent 9 years in the minors. Extraordinary.
I love how these deep dives bring back such characters like Bobby Bragan and Pete Reiser.
Bragan was an important figure in Jackie Robinson’s rookie season, and poor Reiser was on his way to a great career until he collided with that wall. Pretty cool that they helped nurture Maury’s success.

Oldbear48

Thanks Duke. Reiser actually collided with outfield walls 11 times in his career. One of the reasons the Dodgers finally padded the outfield walls at Ebbets Field was because of Reiser.

Duke Not Snider

Ouch… I remember reading about Reiser when I was a kid.
I’ll make another argument for Wills as a HOF talent…
To some extent, he is penalized by the emphasis on “counting stats,” which reward longevity as opposed to impact.
Wills basically ushered in a new era in baseball, but reviving the running game. He was spectacular in his prime, and he ranked with Sandy as this boy’s favorite players. (I also liked Willie Mays–but who didn’t?)
Let me compare him to a HOF Dodger.
Don Sutton had counting stats up the wazoo. He had a fine and long career–but he never won the Cy Young Award. I think he won 20 only once (not bothering to check) at a time when a lot of pitchers won 20. He was roughly good for 15-17 wins for 20 years, and that gets to 300 wins.
He was a really good pitcher for a long time. But was Sutton really a great pitcher?
In a shorter span of time, Fernando was a GREAT and THRILLING pitcher. Same goes for Orel. But for various reasons they couldn’t sustain their success.
So they are on my all-time LA Dodgers team, while Sutton didn’t make the cut.
I’ve got Sandy, Big D, Fernando, Orel and Kershaw. And that guy in the HOF guy can be a swingman.
And Maury is a greater Dodger than Sutton.

Oldbear48

Sutton won 21 in 1976, 11 years into his career. He had won 19 twice up to that point. To me, Sutton was always in the class of very good pitchers. He won double figures in 21 of his 23 seasons. He never won a Cy Young; he led the league in ERA exactly once. He never led the league in K’s. He just was good for 10 plus wins a year. He did pitch several one and two-hit games, but I doubt anyone remembers anything about any of them. But I just never liked the guy even when he was a Dodger. Unfortunately, I do not ever remember him pitching in a game that was do or die. He was only a .500 pitcher, 11-11 against the Giants.

Last edited 13 days ago by Oldbear48
Duke Not Snider

Right…. A fine career, but less memorable, I think, than Fernando and Orel.
If he had won a Cy, or the 7th game of a World Series, or thrown a no-hitter, well, maybe my all-time LA Dodgers team could go with a six-man rotation.
Here’s hoping that Yoshi, Shohei and Glasnow force their way into the conversation.

Badger

Maury Wills was the right man at the right time. The punchless Dodgers of that era needed a spark and that spark was Maury Wills. I was 11 when he came and I really liked him. The whole neighborhood in Canoga Park loved the guy. I think he should be in the Hall, but his stats may say otherwise.

An interesting stat that may go unnoticed – he led the league in caught stealing more times than he led the league in stolen bases. Also, his OPS would not play today. Even in his MVP year his OPS+ was 99.

Read this in this morning’s Times:

“The Dodgers won’t be using a permanent 6 man rotation, opting instead to try to carve out extra rest for their starters by planning strategically around off days and calling up starters when needed.”

In other words the Dodgers will be using a 6-8 man starting rotation and calling it something else, exactly what we’ve been saying they would do, and they are doing it to give the glass elbows on the starting staff plenty of recovery time so they will all be rested and ready for the second season that starts in October. While most of the league prepares to push hard in the summer to make the playoffs, the Dodgers will again cruise to a Division Championship while preparing to win a Championship in the Fall.

Last edited 15 days ago by Badger
Tom1946

Bear –

Great read; thanks for bringing back the wonderfull memories of one of my favorite all-time Dodgers…..

Oldbear48

You are welcome

Dave

What you read in the Times makes sense,they have been doing that for the last few yrs in the second half of the season.1,2,3,4,5,off day or spot starter,rinse/repeat. Sometimes this led to pitchers getting 5,6 or 7 days rest occasionally. Sometimes it has seemed sporadic and I have questioned whether the pitchers needed a more set routine. I’m hoping the main 5 guys can have that by regularly using off days and spot starters.
One thing for sure is with this group they will not be pitching every 5 days.

Last edited 14 days ago by Dave
Oldbear48

Better stats than Maz and he is in. I just do not see the difference.

Jeff Dominique

There is a better argument for Wills than Maz. What Wills accomplished changed the game of baseball. I do not think Wills’ stats put him in the HOF, but what he did for the game does. Maybe not in the 15 year window, but certainly in the new Classic Baseball Era Committee meeting this year.

There is no longer a Veterans Committee selection. Instead there are now 3 distinct ballots to The Contemporary Baseball Era: One for players whose primary contributions were post 1980, one for managers, executives and umpires, and a Classic Baseball Era which will select players whose primary contribution was pre-1980. 

Each Committee will meet and vote every three alternating years. This year the Classic Baseball Era will meet. Any player receiving 75% of the committee vote this December will be inducted into the HOF July 2025. Hopefully Wills will be included on that ballot. Contemporary Baseball Era – Players will meet again in December 2025, and Contemporary Baseball Era – Managers, Executives, and Umpires will meet again in December 2026. This is the Committee that just voted in Jim Leyland last December.

Oldbear48

Totally agree with you Jeff.

SandyAmoros

Bear
thank you for this excellent article, Wills was one of my all time favs along with Duke and Sandy. No doubt belongs in hof. The maz comparason is priceless.

Oldbear48

Your welcome Sandy. Like I said, I compared them because they were adversary’s on the field many times and they both retired the same year.

Duke Not Snider

Eric recently suggested a lineup that got me tinkering. Included is the players’ wmost recent and relevant OPS as a partial explanation.

Against righties:

Mookie .949
Freddie .962
Shohei 1.132
Max .881 (25 HRs, .363 OBP)
Smith .795 (13 HRs, .361 OBP)
Outman .835 (22 HRs, .351 OBP)
Heyward .818
Teoscar .718 (career .772)
Lux .764 (.351 OBP)

Note: Outman flexed a lot more power than Smith, with 9 more HRs but only 10 more ABs, Still, Roberts could simply resume having Smith bat 4th or 5th in part to keep the L/R pattern. To his credit, Smith strikes out at about half the pace of Outman, but his OBP is only slightly better. If Teoscar resumes his career pace, he could bat ahead of Heyward.

Against lefties:

Mookie 1.097
Freddie 1.008
Shohei .897
Teoscar .817 (career .887)
Smith .800
Taylor .795 (10 HRs in 139 ABs)
Max .641 (but 11 HRs in 148 ABs–and only .263 OBP)
Outman .665 (only 1 HR, but a .357 OBP)
Lux .684 (.330 OBP)

Miguel Rojas had a .737 OPS against lefties in ’23. If Lux falters, a platoon could be considered But Lux should get ample opportunity to re-prove himself. Any suggestion that Margot should platoon with Outman or Heyward should understand that his career OBP is a mediocre .309. Good glove, good speed, weak offense.

RC Dodger

Against LHP, it would make sense to play Rojas and Margot since they are very good defensively, they are close on offense to Lux, Outman, and Muncy vs LHP, and only 25% of games have LH starters. Rojas could play at SS or 3B, Margot can play CF or RF, and Taylor can fill in at any of the positions.
It is a long season and Lux, Max, and Outman will need rest, while Rojas and Margot need regular playing time.
In my opinion, the Dodgers were forced to take Margot in the Glasnow trade and wouldn’t otherwise pay $12 million for a backup OF. There is a good chance that Vargas or Pages will end up taking his roster spot by the end of the season to add a better RH bat. The Dodgers best OFer is playing 2nd base right now, so between Mookie and Taylor they have OF depth already on the roster without Margot.

Cassidy

Just a fabulous write up Bear! I never realized how many errors Wills had in his gold glove years. Was it more his glove or his arm? What an exciting year to be a Dodger fan! Can’t wait to get started!

Badger

The best SS I ever saw was Ozzie Smith. 13 Gold Gloves, the most of any SS. His career fielding % was .978. Wills’ career fielding % was .963. Make of that what you will.

I think it’s worth noting the difference in the fields themselves over the years. Smith in St Louis played on artificial turf for most of his career. Not many bad hops there. Wills played first in the Coliseum then in the new field in Chavez. I saw more than a few bad hops at the Coliseum and I think I remember some issues at Chavez early on. It’s not a stretch to suggest the fields themselves have improved considerably over the years.

Oldbear48

When Dodger Stadium first opened, the infield if I remember right was crushed brick. It was hard on the ball and on those sliding in it.

Badger

Yep. We had something similar on my Colt League field one year. Tore up uniforms. It was awful. I know Dodgers infielders hated it.

Jeff Dominique

Ozzie had no peer at SS. Omar Vizquel comes closest to Ozzie’ 13 GG. Vizquel has 11 GG (9 AL and 2 NL). My favorite SS growing up was Luis Aparicio who had 9 GG.

My favorite non-Dodger team growing up was Baltimore. My favorite non-Dodger player growing up was Brooks Robinson. He won 16 GG. Yes, I had a Brooks Robinson signature glove. When Brooks and Mark Belanger, who owed SS in the AL for most of the 70’s played together, that left side of the infield was absolutely awesome. Belanger had 8 GG of his own, also all with Baltimore.  

Badger

I saw them all too, including Aparicio. Vizquel was close, but Smith was the most athletic of all of them. In my opinion.

Jeff Dominique

No argument.

Oldbear48

Ozzie was amazing. In St. Louis. When he was a Padre, I did not think he was anything special.

Mark Timmons

I dug up a few old photos:
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I was following Logan White around Camelback Ranch this day and was a “fly on the wall” in this conversation.

[URLcomment image?width=1920&height=1080&fit=bounds[/IMG][/URL]
Maury at Vero Beach.

Oldbear48

Glad to do it Cassidy. Loved Maury. Yes, I was surprised that he earned a gold glove with that many miscues.

Duke Not Snider

I think you’re right about the Dodgers taking on Margot to get the Glasnow deal done. The Rays even kicked in $2m to dump Margot’s contract–and this was after the Dodgers committed $700m to Shohei!
Margot is an excellent fielder with good speed, but I don’t think his bat merits a platoon role. I think he’s insurance against injury, and good guy off the bench. He could be a late-inning defensive replacement for Teoscar, who is said to turn some routine plays into adventures.
I’m still hoping for Kike to replace Margot on the roster. The versatility would really help. A lot of good FAs still out there.
Could the Brewers use a guy like Margot? Dodgers could eat his salary and stick him in a package for Devin Williams.

Oldbear48

Wills-Mazeroski comparison. Maz has 8 gold gloves, Wills has 2. Maz has 2 WS rings, Maury has 3. Maz was just a bench piece in 71 when the Pirates beat Baltimore. Maz had more power with 138 homers to Maury’s 20. Wills has a higher WAR, 39.6-36.6. Wills has more hits, 2,134-2,016. Maz had exactly 27 steals in his career. That would be a bad year for Maury. Wills OPS+ slightly higher at 88-84. Wills scored 1067 runs, Maz, 769. Wills BA was .281, Maz, .260. Wills won an MVP award, Maz never did. Maz never received more than 40 percent of the writers vote until his last year of eligibility. They both retired after the 72 season. Wills compiled his stats in 14 years, Maz played 17. They spent two seasons as teammates and the Pirates DP combo. Wills averaged .290 over those two seasons and Maz, .256. They are virtually mirrors of the other player. Maury belongs in the Hall.

Bluto

I guess I’m trying to figure out how Mazeroski got into the Hall with those stats.

Badger

He hit a home run to beat the Yankees in a World Series. As far as I know, that’s it.

Jeff Dominique

Not disagreeing with you. I think you are right. But then why isn’t Joe Carter in the HOF. Game 6 1993 WS, Carter hit a walk off, 1-out, 3-run HR off Mitch Williams to give Toronto back to back WS. You still see Maz’s HR, and I believe more than Carter’s. I think Kirk Gibson’s 1988 Game 1 HR gets shown more than both.

Here is Joe Carter’s.

Last edited 14 days ago by Jeff Dominique
Badger

I was being farcical.

Bluto

I dug into it and learned this:

The Baseball Hall of Fame thought Mazeroski’s induction reflected so poorly that soon the Veteran’s Committee process was totally reworked. Nobody, not a single person, got in for a decade.

That said, two wrongs don’t make a right so he’s not a good candidate to use when arguing for the candidacy of another player (just like bringing up Harold Baines, Bruce Sutter doesn’t really help either)

Jeff Dominique

I do not disagree that because so and so is in, then the bar needs to continue to be low for others to get in. That being said, I still think Maury Wills did enough to change the the game and did other skills well enough to get in. He is not Ricky Henderson, Lou Brock, or Tim Raines, but he paved the way for them. I do not believe that a Maury Wills induction will reflect poorly on the Classic Baseball Era Committee.

As Scott pointed out, Harold Baines had a very good career. It took him 22 years for his 2866 hits. Most of those hits came as a DH. In 14 years, Wills had 2134 hits and played SS and mostly with beat up legs. I would say that Wills’ 14 years were more impactful than Baines’ 22 years, but that is from a very biased fan.

Badger

Well said

Oldbear48

The only reason I compared Wills to Maz is because they were contemporary’s and played at the same time. They faced the same pitchers and played on the same fields. I checked their career splits, Wills grounded into less than 100 DPs in his entire career. Max hit into 195. Wills hit almost exactly the same at home.282, and on the road.280. Maz hit 269 at home and .252 on the road. The Pirates could win without Maz. The Dodgers without Wills, totally different team.

Duke Not Snider

Completely agree. He had a big impact.

Duke Not Snider

I don’t think it’s a farcical point.
If a borderline player has a moment like that, it makes a difference. It’s the claim to fame.
Remember, it’s the writers who vote. So drama counts.
And I assume Maz was decent to the scribes. If a guy is a jerk, they could factor that into their decision too.

Last edited 14 days ago by Duke Not Snider
Badger

Good point.

Those of us who were around sure remember that moment. I was in Mr Glass’ 7th grade math class. He sent Jerry Griffith out now and then for updates. The last one Jerry came racing back in saying loudly “the Pirates won!” Everyone was for the Pirates of course cuz everyone hated the Yankees. Everyone still does 64 years later.

Oldbear48

I remember it well because I also hated the Yankees at that point. But the amazing thing is that the Yankees outscored the Pirates 55-27 in that series. In their three wins the Yankees scored 38 runs to the Pirates 3. In their four wins the Pirates scored 24. The Yankees lost by 2-3 and 1 run twice.

Duke Not Snider

Precisely. He had an epic moment that put him over the top.

Oldbear48

If it were just epic moments, Gibby and Carter would be there. How about the only perfect game in World Series history? None of those guys are in. Maz is perhaps one of the least deserving members of the Hall. But I have to believe the members of the Veteran’s committee that voted him in were either old friends, or admirers.

OhioDodger

Mazeroski and Phil Rizzuto do not belong in the HOF. But, since they are in, Wills is certainly as deserving as either one.

Jeff Dominique

Neither does Harold Baines, and yet there he is.

Scott Andes

Baines did put up some really good numbers to be fair, and came really close to 3K hits. Over 2800 hits and over 20 years in the majors. Not sure if that’s exactly hall worthy, but one could argue that he’s close, or borderline.

Jeff Dominique

I think he was very good, just not HOF worthy (IMO).

Phil Jones

Good article Bear. While I was never a big fan of Maury, I did follow his career including his management tenure with the Mariners. He also owned a condo right below mine close to Camelback Ranch.
I have frequently mentioned the 1970 Spokane Indians as the best AAA team I ever saw. While Wills didn’t play on that team, I did watch his son Bump play some high school games in that Fairgrounds ballpark. A high school tournament game with Bump’s Central Valley Bears preceded the Indians game once as I recall. Bump was a skilled high schooler and went to Arizona State prior to signing. Bump was a high school shortstop and the Indians had Bobby Valentine at short.
Good memories.
I rode over the camelback Ranch on my electric Trike this afternoon. I mentioned that they threw me out for trespassing about 2 weeks ago. I was just riding in the parking lot like I’ve done a 100 times. They really have an attitude. Today they had a maze of new barricades up blocking off any access to the Bid League Clubhouse and parking lot and the road around to the Minor league facility and clubhouse. The barricades are surrounded with Japanese press and camera folks waiting patiently for any Ohtani sighting coming out of the Player’s lot. One young Japanese gal had a lens as big as she was. She was prepared to snap a close up photo of a knat on Ohtani’s car, apparently. I didn’t get close enough to see if the gate is open to fans to get into the practice fields but it was a complete zoo, even before Spring Training has actually started.
I have tickets for the 25th and may try to watch BP on a back field that morning. But the place looks like Fort Knox for parking and access. And the ticket prices are ridiculous.

Oldbear48

Yes, it is a little over the top. But all you had to see was how protected everyone was at Dodgerfest.

Anthony H

Hey Phil,
Some friends of mine are visiting Camelback Ranch this spring. Do you have any tips or tricks on getting the most out of the fan experience?

Mark Timmons

I’ll give you my two cents:

It used to be a breeze to get around there, but I have talked to a couple of people who say that the security is so high there that you can sneeze and you will go to jail! I think it will be a pain in the a$$ there this year!

Anthony H

Thanks, Mark,
And a question for you……..
Were you surprised that the Dodgers signed Teoscar Hernandez to start in the outfield instead of giving Vargas a shot in left? They thought highly enough of him last season to be their starting second baseman, Do you think behind closed doors they have lost faith in him to hit MLB pitching or was it the potential of Teoscar and his power from the right side too good to pass up?

Mark Timmons

I am not surprised that they signed Teo to a one-year deal. Miguel is not proven. He will have to redeem himself. He’s young, and if he shows he can hit, he will play somewhere. I can tell you for certain that the Dodgers still think highly of him.. You nailed it: the potential of Teoscar and his power from the right side too good to pass up!

Mark Timmons

That said, I still think Miggy has a good shot of being the Dodgers LF’er in 2025.

Anthony H

I trust the Dodgers will give him another shot at cracking the lineup at some point. AF just doesn’t hand a rookie who had had very little time at 2nd the starting job if he didn’t think he was special.

Phil Jones

Anthony, for visiting fans I suggest they make a day of it. Go early and watch BP on the side field and tour the grounds along the river. Check out the signs that list Dodger All-Stars by position. It’s very nice. I then enter through the center field gate, have a bite of lunch and walk around the ballpark. You will need a Dodger dog but the best item used to be a Meatball Sandwich on the menu for Tommy, but they discontinued them when he passed. Check out your seat location. The players start their warm ups about 30 minutes prior to game time. It’s a fun experience.

Anthony H

Thank you, Phil!

I always enjoy your insights on the game. I’m happy that Mark and you have joined the conversation here on Jeff’s site. This season has the potential to be historic. Good or bad.

What do you think about them going to a six-man starting rotation this season?

Phil Jones

I’m all in on a 6 man rotation, at least until the All-Star break.

Watford Dodger

https://www.mlb.com/news/shohei-ohtani-batting-practice-home-runs-dodgers?partnerID=mlbapp-iOS_article-share

I’m amazed how hard he’s swinging here!!!

21 swings – 10 for Homers.

This is good news.

Last edited 14 days ago by Watford Dodger
Bobby

Huge. He has 4 weeks till Korea, and 7 weeks till Opening Day to fine tune

Duke Not Snider

And one report I saw said he wasn’t swinging that hard. ,Maybe he just makes it look easy.
If Shohei stays healthy, he should top 50 HRs. Last season, he had 44 in 497 ABs over 135 games. That’s about 1 every 12 ABs. If he is able to play 25 more games, he should have another 100-150 ABs. And with this powerhouse lineup, he should get more ABs than he ever did with the Halos.

Cassidy

Shohei Ohtani said the Dodgers’ ownership group looked at the last 10 years as a “failure” even though they made the playoffs every year and won one World Series.

Ohtani said those high expectations and desire to win are some of the reasons he ultimately chose the Dodgers.

— Noah Camras (@noahcamras) December 14, 2023

Not my words

Oldbear48

Looks like the Dodgers might be getting different city connect uniforms this season. Only the Yankees and the A’s will not be wearing them. If the A’s were to wear one, it should just show a moving van.

Keith

Personally I’m not a big fan of any of the city connect uniforms, good for the A’s and the Yankees for not succumbing to this new trend.

Matt

Not might, they will be.

Oldbear48

I was just quoting the article.

Oldbear48

It is something of note that Topps did not make a Maury Wills baseball card during his first tenure with the Dodgers. K-Mart got permission to use the 62 cards border and made these 1972 cards of Wills that were never issued, To get a card of him as a Dodger back then, you would get one from post cereal or the Bell Brand Potato chip cards they made in 61 and 62, There was a photo of Wills making a play in the 1960 World Series cards issued by Topps. His first Topps card is the 1967 Pirates. He did have a 1963 Fleer. His first Topps Dodger card was made in 1972.

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Jeff Dominique

Bear, I love this history on the Baseball Cards. As any baseball loving kid, I had a lot of baseball cards. From 1960-1969, I had a collection of over 2500 and all in excellent condition. My mistake was forgetting them when I got kicked out of my parents home at 18. They were gone when my friends went back to pick up my stuff.

Maybe you can do an article on the history of baseball cards. I know I would find it very compelling. Of course same pay as your others. 😉

Oldbear48

Same pay is fine Jeff 🙄 . I just today went online at Ebay and purchased two Maury Wills replica cards. One looks like a 1952 Topps and the other is a 53 Topps. Pretty cool cards. I have a Garvey that looks like the 53. And I already started a research of the history of baseball cards. And there is another story besides the Moose in the que. 😎  ☝ 

Jeff Dominique

I need to thank Bear for his continual great articles. I had a bad fall on my driveway last week, and hurt myself pretty good. It was not an age related fall so for thank I am thankful. Unfortunately I badly injured my good bad knee and right hand, and now it is difficult to walk or write. I do not take anything for pain except ibuprofen to take away the swelling, so I have been miserable. I have not been able to stay focused on getting any research done on any of the articles I had in mind. 

This AM I am back in my Starbucks office, and I will see how long I last. Fortunately, Bear has another post for me to publish, so if I cannot finish what I am working on, there will be another Bear post for tomorrow.

Oldbear48

My pleasure my friend.

Singing the Blue

Hope you feel better soon, Jeff.
At our age, everything is age related, whether it seems so or not.

Bumsrap

So Jeff, keep your shoelaces tied and stop rollerskating in your driveway.

Bklyn2LA57

Giants sign Soler 3 years $42 million. Pretty cheap for that kind of production: .853 OPS. last season.

Last edited 13 days ago by Bklyn2LA57
Singing the Blue

The Giants aren’t going to win the division but they might surprise a few people this year.

I expect some good things from their new Korean outfielder Jung Hoo Lee (I would have liked for us to sign him). He seems to have a good personality and I think he’ll be a fan favorite up there.

Oldbear48

The Giants will be better because that clubhouse is going to be better under Melvin. He had too many wacko personalities in San Diego and a very dysfunctional clubhouse. SF suffered from Kapleritis.

Singing the Blue

Contrary to a lot of you guys, I like the idea of the City Connect uniforms. Some of them were really bad but a few of them turned out very well (at least to my warped sense of fashion).

I have a suggestion for the new Dodger intro for this year.
Picture this, if you will: a Malibu beach scene with a rising Japanese sun  🤗 

Oldbear48

I think they are unnecessary. The Pirates started that trend when they had the mix and match unis. Two worst are the Giants bright orange and cream colored and that butt ugly yellow the D-Backs used for theirs. I actually liked the Colorado unis. They looked exactly like the license plate. Now I could see the Dodgers using all blue jersey top on say Friday nights. But the Los Doyers on the caps can go.

Bumsrap

Maybe put this on the front of the Dodger City Connect uniforms: comment image

Mark Timmons

The Official Word from Camelback Ranch is that Miguel Vargas is currently the 27th player on the roster and is working out only in LF with the opportunity to be the Dodgers LF’er in 2025. Of course, an injury to any outfielder opens up a spot for Miguel. The Dodgers have brought in a former Dodger Leftfielder to work with Miggyu to play the position… namely Andre Ethier!

Mark Timmons

Over a month after I shut it down, LADODGERTALK.com was named the #7 Dodger Blog. They got that all wrong!

https://baseball.feedspot.com/la_dodgers_blogs/

😮

Last edited 13 days ago by Mark Timmons
Make mine Blue

Maybe shutting it down caused it to gain in the rankings, lol.

Singing the Blue

I think that’s probably the perfect solution for Vargas. His future should be as a left fielder or DH and DH ain’t gonna happen in L.A.

Jeff Dominique

LF is where he belongs (sorry Badger he is not a 3B). I love the idea that Vargas can learn from Andre Ethier. Ethier even has a GG on his trophy shelf. And I have always thought that Tthier’s demeanor would play very well as a coach/instructor. Leave him in LF. He is not the Dodgers prototypical platoon player.

Badger

“sorry Badger he is not a 3B”

Well he was until the Dodgers signed a DH to play that position. Now he is blocked and back to AAA he goes.

Singing the Blue

What could be more iconic than that?

Jayne Cobb

Another great article Bear

One reason I find myself annoyed by some of the HOF indictees in the past few years is the implications to past players who really weren’t given much of a look when it was their time.

Personally, I don’t believe Wills is a HOF level player. But I also don’t believe Baines is either. Or Joe Mauer. I could go on and on. But now that players that would previously be considered “fringe” candidates are in the Hall, the level that is now fringe encompasses a large number of past players.

One could make an argument for Mauer being a HOFer. But on his first ballot? His peak production was short and he played much of its career at 1b. His peek was elite, for certain. But when players like Jorge Posada (who played almost all his games as a catcher) and Robin Ventura (who was one of the best 3rd basemen in baseball for a decade or more) dropped off the ballot after their first year; I have to scratch my head. Baines and Lee Smith had to wait for more than a decade (and after they had dropped off the primary ballot) to get elected. Personally, I don’t believe any of these players are HOFers. At least in my assessment. But since they are, there are players like Wills that now seem to have been given little consideration. Mauer getting in on his first ballot has lowered the standard even further.

It will be interesting to how the new incarnation of what used to be called the veterinary comity votes in the coming years. And if players like Wills do end up getting voted in it will be a shame that it is after he has passed. I’ve never believed players like Mattingly or Garvey had HOF careers. But it’s more difficult to make that argument given who’s been inducted in recent years.

Singing the Blue

Some thought provoking stuff here, Jayne. It certainly seems as though there is very little consistency in the voting these days.

I find it interesting that you would possibly (grudgingly) accept Mauer but have a problem with his going in on the first ballot. In my mind, either you’re in or you’re not, although I have issues with some of the guys who are in.

Maybe, with all of the fringe guys who’ve gone in over the past few years, they need to have different levels.

If they’re going to shove all of these guys into the Hall of Fame, maybe there needs to be a Palace of Fame for Ruth, Koufax, etc.

And then a Parking Lot of Fame for guys like Baines.

It will be interesting to how the new incarnation of what used to be called the veterinary comity votes in the coming years. ” I think you’ve hit on the problem, Jayne. They’re letting veterinarians vote now.

Jayne Cobb

Lol. I hacked that out on my phone. Between my fat fingers and ever thickening glasses, using my phone to type has become an adventure.

OhioDodger

The Hall Of Fame voting is a farce. Two of the voters left Beltre off their ballot. I agree that Mauer is not in my HOF. It is becoming more of a museum than a HOF.

Oldbear48

It is what it is. Baseball writers per-se are a bunch of people who vote for their favorites and snub players who they do not get along with. Use of PEDs notwithstanding, Gary Sheffield was not a well-liked player. But he came pretty close to making it in. Same with Bonds. Now both are in the hands of the ERA committee.

dodgerpatch

I suppose the question to ask is by what criteria are players considered HOF-worthy?

It’s entirely subjective, but what moves the needle for voters? Is it longevity? Impact on the league/team?

I went over to Fangraphs and looked at Baines career stats. He has 38.4 career WAR, which is sandwiched in between Brett Gardner and Aramis Ramirez in career totals.

He played a long time with pretty consistently good output, but considering his DH status and generally substandard defense in the outfield, I would think he’d need to have much more impressive offensive numbers.

Just in terms of an offense-first player in his era, his closest comp in the Off stat as well as total WAR is Chili Davis. As far as I know Harold Baines never broke a bat over his knee in frustration after striking out.

Oldbear48

If any one player has been unjustly snubbed in my eyes, outside of Hodges, who should have been in years ago, my choice would be Dale Murphy. 2-time MVP. 5 gold gloves, 7 All-Star appearances. Led the league in homers twice and RBIs twice. Finished with 398 career homers. 46.5 WAR OPS + 121

Oldbear48

Rockies losing one of their few on air personalities that is likeable on the air. Jenny Cavnar was named as the play-by-play announcer for the A’s. Like Alana Rizzo, Cavnar got her start on Rockies post and pre-game shows.

Mark Timmons

Billy Wagner should be in the HOF.
15 Years 2.31 ERA/.0998 WHIP
422 Saves
903 IP 1196 K’s

Mariano Rivera is in the HOF
19 Years 2.21 ERA/1.00 WHIP
652 Saves (he was with a much better team)
1115 IP 1173 K’s

Pete Rose should also be in the HOF with an asterisk that says, “He was Banned from baseball after he retired for gambling.”

You can’t re-write history and he is the Hit Leader of MLB!

Last edited 13 days ago by Mark Timmons
Jeff Dominique

Agree with Billy Wagner and Pete Rose.

Mark Timmons

For the time being, I am going to assume that Gavin Lux can handle SS defensively. If so, I think his bat could play up BIG TIME!

Let’s look at his history in MLB:

2019 – 82 PA .240 BA/.305 OB%/.705 OPS – Promising
2020 – 69 PA .175 BA/.246 OB%/.596 OPS – Crash
2021-381 PA .242 BA/.328 OB%/.692 OPS – Back on Track
2022-471 PA .276 BA/.346 OB%/.745 OPS – Heading Up
2023 – Blew out Knee – season lost!
2024 – What if he gets 500 PA and hits .289 with a .360 OB% and .800 OPS – He’s 26 years old and should be entering his prime. If he can play SS, he will be a huge asset!

Add in Teoscar and the possibility he could eclipse 35 HR and this team is a juggernaut!

Oldbear48

Not going to argue at this juncture in time about Rose. My feelings on him are well documented.

Badger

Good character is not a criteria for HOF admission.

Jayne Cobb

You are correct. But there is only one deadly, unforgivable sin in baseball. Every player and has coach known it since 1921. There is a notice in every clubhouse with the language of rule 21. The top of the notice reads “To players AND managers”.

Mark Timmons

She will be the first female play-by-play announcer, and she deserves it. I like her a lot.

Oldbear48

Some big time free agents still out there including Bellinger, Chapman, Snell and Montgomery.

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