LOS ANGELES — Maury Wells, who terrorized shooters with his rule-stealing prowess as a short stopping point for the Los Angeles Dodgers in three world championship teams, has died. He was 89 years old.
The team said Tuesday after being informed by family members. No cause of death was given.
He played Wills on the World Championship teams in 1959, 63 and 65 during his first eight seasons with the Dodgers. He also played for Pittsburgh and Montreal before returning to the Dodgers from 1969-1972, when he retired.
During his 14-year career, Wills fought 0.281 with 2,134 hits and 586 stolen bases in 1,942 games.
Wills broke Ty Cobb’s one-season record for stolen bases with his 97th slam on September 23, 1962. In that season he became the first player to steal over 100 bases.
The Dodgers honored the Wills with a moment of silence before their opening game with a double-header against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday and showed off the highlights of their career on the court’s video boards. The team will wear a patch in memory of wills for the remainder of this season.
Manager Dave Roberts, a defensive player during his 10-year career in the MLS, was moved to tears as he recalled the impact of Wills on him.
“He was a friend, a father, a mentor — all of the above to me, so this is hard for me,” he said. “It kind of showed me that I value my profession, it showed me how to be a great player. He just loves to teach. I think a lot of the places where I get excited, my passion, my love for players is from Morey.”
Wills played an active role in Roberts’ time with the Dodgers. Roberts stole 42 bases in 2003.
“I remember during games when I was playing here he would come down from the wing and tell me I needed to hit or I needed to do it,” Roberts said. “He just showed that he was with me. To this day, there will be cheers for me, cheers for me.”
Wells had his own stint as manager, leading the Seattle Mariners from 1980 to 1981, going 26-56 with a win percentage of 0.317.
He was the MVP in the National League in 1962, the same year that he was the MVP in the All-Star Game played in his hometown of Washington, D.C.
Will stayed home with his family instead of staying at the team hotel for the All-Star Game. He arrived on the field carrying a Dodgers bag and wearing a Dodgers jersey. However, the security guard did not let him in, saying that he was too young to be a football player.
Will suggested that the goalkeeper escort him to the door of the NL club, where he would wait while the goalkeeper asked the players to confirm his identity.
“So we walk in there and baseball players have a good sense of humor, because when I stood in front of the door, in Dodger’s shirt and duffel bag, the guy opened the door and said, ‘Anyone here knows this boy?’ ‘ And they all looked at me and said, ‘I’ve never seen him before,’ Wells told the Washington Post in 2015.
After the match, he left Wales with the MVP trophy and showed it to the goalkeeper.
“He still didn’t believe me, he just thought I might have been carrying it for someone,” Wells told the newspaper.
Wills led the NL in stole bases from 1960-65, was a seven-time All-Star pick and won Gold Glove Awards in 1961 and ’62.
He is credited with reviving the Stolen Base as a strategy. His speed made him a constant threat on the base lanes and distracted shooters even if he wasn’t trying to steal. He carefully studied the pitchers and their movements when he was not on base. When a pitcher’s throw led him to the sack, he became even more determined to steal.
Once, in a game against the New York Mets, Wills was at first base when bowler Roger Craig threw 12 times in a row to the bag. On Craig’s next throw, Wells took second.
At the age of 32, Wills would wrap his legs before matches due to the punishment for slipping.
After retiring with the Dodgers in 1972, Wills worked as an analyst at NBC for five years. He also managed the winter ball in the Mexican Pacific League, winning the 1970-71 league championship.
Wells’ tenure in the Mariners’ administration was largely seen as a disaster and he was criticized for his lack of managerial experience. That was evident in his many missteps, including calling for a relief pitcher when no one was warming up on the playing field and stopping the match for several minutes while looking for a pinch hitter.
Wills’ biggest mistake came on April 25, 1981, when he ordered the Marines’ crew to extend the batter’s trunk a foot longer toward the hill than regulation would allow. Oakland manager Billy Martin noticed and asked Bill Konkel to investigate.
Kunkel questioned the chief of the groundskeeper, who admitted that the wills had ordered the change. Wills said it was to help his players stay in the penalty area. However, Martin suspected it would give the Mariners an advantage against the broken bowlers in Oakland. The will was suspended for two games by the MLS and fined $500.
He led the Wales Mariners to a record 20-38 to end the 1980 season, and was dismissed on May 6, 1981, when the team sank to last place at 6-18. Years later, Wales admitted that he probably should have had more experience as a minor league manager before being named to the major leagues.
Welles struggled with alcohol and cocaine addiction until he became sober in 1989. The Dodgers are credited with promoting the great Don Newcombe, who overcame his alcohol problems, with his help. Newcomb died in 2109.
“I’m standing here with the man who saved my life,” Wells said of Newcomb. “He was a conduit for God’s love for me because he chased me all over L.A. trying to help me and I couldn’t understand it. But he persevered, he didn’t give up and my life is great today because of Don Newcomb.”
Born in Washington, D.C. on October 2, 1932, Maurice Morning Wells was a distinguished player in three sports at Cardoso High School. He earned All-City honors as a football and basketball quarterback and a major in baseball when he was nicknamed Sonny.
In 1948, he played in the unbeaten school football team, which did not give up any points. On the hill, Wells threw a one hitter and hit 17 in a game in 1950. The school’s baseball field is named in his honor.
Wills has his own museum in Fargo, North Dakota, where he was the coach and coach of the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks from 1996-1997.
He is survived by his wife Carla and children Barry, Mickey, Bump, Anita, Susan Quam and Wendy Joe Wells. Bump was a former second major league starter and played for the Texas and Chicago Cubs.