LOS ANGELES – Legendary Dodger base-stealing wizard Maury Wills died last night at 10:15 p.m. at his home in Sedona, AZ, the team announced. Wills was 89.
Wills, who revolutionized baseball in the 1960s with his base-running exploits, served as a base-running and bunting instructor for the Dodgers’ Major League and minor league players for many years during spring training.
The Dodgers will wear a patch in memory of Wills for the duration of the 2022 season.
In 2010, Wills was voted as the fifth-greatest Los Angeles Dodger of all-time by readers of the Los Angeles Times.
“Maury Wills was one of the most exciting Dodgers of all-time,” Dodger President and CEO Stan Kasten said.
“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.”
Wills first came to Spring Training with the Dodgers in 1951 at age 18 and worked his way up through the farm system, making his Major League debut with Los Angeles on June 6, 1959. He played 14 Major League seasons with the Dodgers, Pirates and Expos and had a career batting average of .281 with 586 stolen bases, the 20th-highest total in Major League history.
The seven-time All-Star led the league in stolen bases six consecutive seasons from 1960-65, including a then-Major League record 104 in 1962. That season, he earned the National League Gold Glove Award and NL Most Valuable Player honors when he batted .299 with 130 runs, 208 hits, six homers and 48 RBI in 165 games.
The Washington, DC, native appeared in four World Series with the Dodgers (1959, 1963, 1965 and 1966), including world championships in his first three visits to the Fall Classic.
Wills played in the minor leagues from 1951 to 1959 and stole 281 bases there before reaching the big leagues with the Dodgers.
He was the first player to bat on artificial turf on April 18, 1966 at the Houston Astrodome and singled up the middle off Turk Farrell.
While still a player, Wills began managing in Hermosillo, Mexico, between seasons in 1970-71 and was voted the top manager in the league. He realized his dream of becoming a Major League manager when he served as skipper of the Seattle Mariners during the 1980-81 seasons.
Wills spent six years as a baseball analyst for NBC Sports on the Major League Baseball Game of the Week and one year as an HBO network in-studio sports personality. He was an instructor for 15 Major League baseball teams, teaching the art of base-running and base-stealing and trained the Osaka “Hankyu Braves” in Japan for four years.
Under then-Governor Ronald Reagan, Wills was the chairman of athletics for youth in the State of California. He also worked as assistant to then-Pittsburgh Mayor Joseph Barr in youth relations and served as assistant to the district attorney of Clark County, Nevada, for youth programs. He was involved with the Red Ribbon Program, a national organization dedicated to the prevention of drug abuse whose slogan is “Hugs not Drugs,” and he was a youth drug program role model for the Redondo Beach (CA) Crime Watch. Wills also made numerous appearances for the Dodgers’ Community Relations Department.
Wills authored two books: It Pays to Steal (1963) and How to Steal a Pennant (1976).
Born Maurice Morning Wills on Oct. 2, 1932 in Washington, D.C., Wills leaves his wife, Carla, and six children—Barry Wills, Micki Wills, Bump Wills, Anita Wills, Susan Quam and Wendi Jo Wills.
Funeral services are pending.