The Los Angeles Dodgers made Maury Wills the fourth member of the “Legends of Dodger Baseball,” joining Steve Garvey, Don Newcombe and Fernando Valenzuela, who each were part of the inaugural class in 2019.
The Legends of Dodger Baseball is in recognition of franchise greats and their impact both on and off the field. Inductees receive a plaque honoring their achievements while playing for the Dodgers, which also goes on permanent display at Dodger Stadium.
Wills had his career celebrated during a special ceremony prior to first pitch against the Cincinnati Reds this past Saturday. The first 40,000 ticketed fans received a Maury Wills Legends of Dodger Baseball bobblehead.
Although he wasn’t able to be at the game, Wills wrote a speech to thank the fans and Dodgers for the honor, via Houston Mitchell of the L.A. Times:
For as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a baseball player. I was playing sandlot baseball before I had a pair of shoes. Not cleats – shoes, period. And from the age of 14, when my hero, Jackie Robinson, became a Dodger, I wanted to be a Dodger. I spent nine years in the minor leagues waiting for that chance, and finally made it! So, like Lou Gehrig, I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world. I thank God for a lot of people in my life. I had wonderful parents, I have marvelous children and grandchildren. I wish I could name them all, but you’d be here all night, and you’d much rather watch the game. So, here are just a few:
Jerry Priddy, who, when I was 11, was the first person to tell me that I had the talent to become a good ballplayer. (He also asked me why I was barefoot.)
Rex Bowen and John Curry, who brought me into the Dodgers organization in the first place.
Bobby Bragan, who taught me how to switch hit.
Walter Alston, who encouraged me to steal bases.
Fred Claire, and especially Don Newcombe, who saved my life by getting me into a rehab program.
Sandy Koufax, Don Newcombe, Tommy Davis, John Roseboro, Willie Davis, Don Drysdale, Dave Roberts and John Boggs, for being such great friends.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, who gave me not only my first chance but second, third, multiple chances at a great career.
Dodgers fans, who encouraged me time and time again to give my all. On days when I was really hurting, hearing “Go! Go! Go, Maury, go!” kept me running.
And last, but certainly not least, is my wonderful wife, Carla, who has brought me so much joy for the last fifteen years.
I wouldn’t be here today if my friends, with the help of God, and some wonderful organizations that want to remain anonymous, hadn’t literally saved my life. Please, if you know someone with a substance abuse problem, help them save their lives too.
I wish for each of you to have as fortunate a life as I have had. God bless the Los Angeles Dodgers. And may God bless you all.
Wills played 14 seasons from 1959-72, 12 of which were with the Dodgers. He was a lifetime .281 hitter and finished with 586 career stolen bases. The 1962 NL MVP was also a seven-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner at shortstop.
Wills revolutionized the sport in 1962 when he stole 104 bases, becoming the first player in modern MLB history to reach triple-digits. He remains the Dodgers all-time franchise leader with 490 career stolen bases.
Among Dodgers franchise leaders, Wills additionally ranks 10th in total at-bats (6,156), runs scored (876) and hits (1,732).
After his playing career, Wills became the Seattle Mariners manager for the 1980-81 seasons and then began a long stint as an instructor with the Dodgers. That entailed regular appearances in camp during Spring Training for bunting and baserunning drills, and providing coaching during the regular season.
Wills fell short of Hall of Fame induction
This past offseason, Wills fell short of induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame via the Golden Days Era Committee. The Dodgers did have Gil Hodges enshrined, with he and Wills part of 10-person ballot comprised of candidates whose primary contributions were from 1950-69.
Candidates needed to receive votes on 75% of the ballots cast by the 16-member committee in order to be inducted. Hodges garnered 12 votes, which was exactly the threshold to qualify. Wills was named among players who received three or fewer votes.
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