WHERE THERE’S A WILLS
THERE’S A WAY

A Profile on BAD’s 2002 Ernie Banks Positive Image Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

On September 23rd, 1962 - a 29 year-old shortstop, who had spent nearly 10 years in the minor leagues before breaking into the Majors, shattered Ty Cobb’s record of 96 stolen bases in a season. The record had stood for 47 years and it seemed inconceivable that someone could break it, much less that the century mark could be broken. But that’s exactly what Maurice Maurice Mourning Wills did by finishing the season with 104 stolen bases for the Dodgers helping to propel them to a World Championship the following year.

With the Dodger faithful chanting "Go Maury Go – go…go…go," Maury Wills would change the face of baseball, leading the National League in stolen bases for six straight seasons from 1960-1965, finishing with a lifetime total of 585. His presence was a major force on the L.A. Dodger team for 14 years and the perfect offensive compliment to L.A.’s superior pitching, leading to three successful World Series Championships in 1959 (his very first year with the club), 1962, and again in 1965 when he batted .367 in the Series and swiped 3 bases. The Dodgers also claimed the National League Pennant in 1966 with Wills again an All-Star shortstop.

Wills’ 1962 season was an extraordinary showcase of athleticism. While swiping his record 104 bases, Wills was caught stealing only 13 times while Cobb had been caught 38 times in 1915. Cobb set his record in 156 games. Wills broke it by one in the same span. Wills led the NL with 10 triples and reached career highs with 130 runs, 48 RBI, 6 homeruns, and 208 hits. Although it took him 1,167 at bats before hitting his first homerun the year before, he became only the 7th player in history at the time to sock one from each side of the plate in one game. His 695 at-bats that season missed the Major League record by one. He won the first of two Gold Gloves. He was elected All-Star MVP and he beat out Willie Mays by seven points to win the NL MVP award.

The many athletic achievements of Maury Wills are evident by the many awards he has received throughout the years.

• National League MVP and Player of the Year and All-Star MVP in 1962
• Shortstop of the Year 1970 & 71 at 37 and 38 years of age.
• Gold Glove Award in 1961 & 62
• 7-Time All-Star
• Sport Magazine’s "Man of the Year"
• Associated Press "Athlete of the Year"
• Hickok Pro-Athlete of the Year Award

Even as late as 2001, Wills was honored as "A Treasure of Los Angeles" with Mayor Richard Riordan presenting him his award before a standing ovation.

However, between the time that Maury had retired from the playing field and the standing ovation last year, Maury Wills learned how long the fall from the top could be. He realized his dream of becoming a Major League manger when he became skipper of the Seattle Mariners in 1980 & 81. After losing his job as Manager this gifted athlete, who didn’t even believe in smoking in front of his young fans, surrendered to a cocaine addiction that cost him his career, his fortune, and almost cost him his life. The road to the top had been a tough one for Maury, climbing from the anonymity of poverty and battling racism, as he struggled to prove just what an extraordinary athlete he was. But the leap to the bottom was even harder for this man. The lesson Wills provides us with by fighting his way back to the top again is the reason Baseballers Against Drugs honors him on January 31.

Maury Wills is still involved in the world of baseball and very involved with young people. He returned to the Dodger organization this year as bunting and base-running coordinator for the team. He is Vice President of Special Projects for the Fort Worth Cats, an independent Texas baseball franchise. Under Governor Ronald Reagan, Wills was Chairman of Athletics for Youth in the State of California. He has also worked as Assistant to Pittsburgh’s Mayor Barr and the District Attorney of Clark County, Nevada for Youth Programs and Relations. He is involved in the Red Ribbon Program, a national organization whose slogan is "Hugs not Drugs." He is Youth Drug Program Role Model for the Redondo Beach Crime Watch. And his most satisfying role has been with the children he works with through Today’s Fresh Start which offers free tutoring in math and reading to public school children who are failing.

The memory of Maury Wills the ballplayer achieving his 104th stolen base for the Dodgers is one of nostalgic romance for those of us who truly love the game. However, the accomplishments and humanity of Maury Wills the man offer a valuable lesson and enduring hope to all of us who truly value life.


BASEBALLERS AGAINST DRUGS
P.O. Box 1438 Simi Valley, CA 93062 | 805-583-1439 | homerun@bad.org