Will died Monday night at his home in Sedona, Arizona, at the age of 89.
A light-hitting swinger, Wales had spent nearly a decade in the minor leagues, honing his limited skills, studying shooter inclinations, learning how to switch, getting a shot with the Dodgers and then helping them win three World Championship titles. in four. While trying to reintroduce base heist into baseball as a primary offensive weapon.
Wills became an important coach with the Dodgers family in his later years and developed a strong relationship with a young base thief when Dave Roberts He was traded from the Cleveland Indians to the Dodgers in December 2001. Roberts stole 118 bases in two and a half seasons before being traded to the Boston Red Sox, where he executed perhaps the most famous base steal in history during the 2004 MLS Championship.
Roberts, who wears No. 30 as the Dodgers manager as a salute to Wells, had one tear running down his cheek as he spoke about his mentor before the first game with a double-header on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
“I just love baseball, I love the job and I love the relationship with the players,” Roberts said. “We spent a lot of time together. He showed me how I value my profession and what it means to be a top rider. He just loves to teach. So I think a lot in terms of the excitement, my passion and my love for the players is from Morey.”
Roberts said it was “likely” he wouldn’t run the Dodgers had it not been for Wills and his influence on him.
“In a strange way, I think I influenced his post-baseball career as much as watching every game I played or managed,” Roberts said. “I remember that even during the games I played, he would come down from the wing and tell me I need to hit more, I need to do this or that. … The coach was saying, ‘Morri is at the end of the bunker and he wants to talk to you.’”
“He just showed he was with me, and to this day, he’ll be there encouraging me.”
Wills played a major role in the Dodgers in the 1960s, leading the National League in heists six times, earning two Gold Gloves for his field participation and beating Willie Mays for the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 62, when he stunned the baseball world with his status. A record with 104 base stolen, beating the 47-year-old’s mark of 96 by the immortal Ty Cobb.
By hitting, he hit 0.299 that season, amassing 208 songs, all but 29 of them being singles. At the just-opened Dodger Stadium, these singles brought out chants of “Go! Go! Go!” Wells was happy to oblige, usually with success.
He was caught stealing only 13 times, later saying that number should have been eight, since five times he was kicked out when Jim Gilliam, hitting behind him, failed to connect to hit-and-run plays. His prowess on the core tracks that season resulted in a career-high 130 points.
Wills was so afraid that the ground crew of the San Francisco Giants dug up the base of the base and added peat moss and moist soil to slow it down in a critical late-summer game in 1962 in Candlestick Park.
The commandments laughed at the memory of deceptions years later In an interview in 2021 With Houston Mitchell from The Times. “I was flattered that they would go through all those troubles to try and stop me,” he said.
Welles stole 586 bases in his 14-year career, and in his retirement, he told the Daily Times of State College, Pennsylvania, “When you’re a primary thief, you’re a different man. … you have to be cocky to be a good thief.”
And in an age when the Dodgers relied on archery, which was primarily provided by Sandy Kovacs and Don Drysdale, and jogging was way above its price, all the stolen basic wills relieved some of the tension. He once said, “Playing the dodgers, one run is the mountain.”
He stole second place, stole third, and when the situation called for it, he stole the house. It disrupted shooters and embarrassed hunters and intruders. Usually he’s single, steals second place, and then records on someone else’s single. Or, singles, steal second, draw a bad throw and get third, then score in a pop-up game.
Morey made himself a star. His former teammate Norm Sherry told The Times in 1980: ‘He taught himself not to make mistakes.’
Wills might not be as big as Koufax or Drysdale, but he was right behind them.
With fame, though, came the temptation, and the slick while he ran the rules, Wills couldn’t outrun the temptation. In his autobiography, which he wrote with Mike Celecek, “On the Run: The Never Dull and Rocking Life of Maury Wills,” he claimed to have had love affairs with Hollywood stars Doris Day—in her autobiography, “Doris Day: Her Own Story Denied.” That – and Eddie Adams.He had a volatile and devastating six-year relationship with a woman named Judy Aldrich and blamed her for making him start drinking heavily.
He toured with entertainers, even played Las Vegas concerts himself, and sang while accompanying himself on the banjo, guitar, or ukulele, but he wasn’t always a club favourite, even though he was the captain.
“A lot of our ballplayers simply haven’t bumped into it,” Dodgers general manager Buzzie Bavasi told Sports Illustrated after Wills was traded with the Pittsburgh Pirates. “Maybe he was too intense for their taste, I don’t know.”
Still, Wells was a productive player on a winning team and might have spent his entire career playing for the Dodgers – he ended up with them after stints in Pittsburgh and Montreal – had it not been for an escape after the 1966 season.
After the Baltimore Orioles just swept the world championships, the Dodgers’ family members embarked on a stormy journey to Japan. Wells, who was upset with a knee injury mid-season, said the knee was sore and asked to leave the tour, return to Los Angeles and get treatment. Permission denied, he left anyway.
Instead of flying straight to Los Angeles and receiving treatment, he made a week-long layover in Honolulu, where he joined singer Don Ho in his acting, banjo playing, singing and joking. Bavasi, who was vacationing in Hawaii with his wife, happened to catch this representation one evening and shortly thereafter the Wills were traded to Pittsburgh.
Wills equaled his senior career with a batting average of 302 in 1967, his first year with the Buccaneers and he went on to be a productive player throughout his 30s. In 1971, at the age of 38, he fought 0.281 with 169 injuries in 149 games for the Dodgers. He was released after the 1972 season with 2,134 career results and 586 stolen bases.
During his playing days, Wills spent several winters as a manager of a Mexican league team and hoped to continue his career as a major league manager. The San Francisco Giants, who offered him a one-year contract in 1977, had been in a broadcasting career and working as a part-time head coach, turned him down when he finally got a management shot.
The Seattle Mariners, an expansion team in their off-season fourth season, fired Daryl Johnson in early August 1980 and hired Wills. to save them. On his first night at the helm, the Mariners lost to the Angels 8-3, to finish last in the West American League. It was as good as it happened with commandments with sailors. They finished in the past, then had the 1981 season start 6-18, their worst ever, and testaments were gone by early May.
This, along with his deteriorating relationship with Aldrich, sent him into a state of collapse. He would binge and cocaine, lock himself in his house alone, stay high for days at a time, cover windows with blankets, hallucinate, overcome extreme paranoia, and contemplate suicide.
Wells estimated that in one year, he spent $1 million on cocaine – and although he became sober in 1989, this descent into darkness may have been part of the reason he was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was rejected 15 times by Baseball Writers Assn. of America and ten more times by the Veterans Committee.
“I really think I’m going to be conscripted, and the question is if they’re going to mad at me before I die,” Wells told The Times in 2016.
The Dodgers helped get him into a substance abuse treatment program, but Wills dropped out and continued using drugs until he began a relationship with Angela George, who helped him get into a rehab clinic. Wills, again with help from the Dodgers, finally became sober in 1989, and he and George later married.
Wells said of his dark days: “Some people grow old, but they don’t grow old.” “This is what happened to Morey Wells. In those three years, I was 15.”
Maurice Morning Wells, one of 13 children, was born on October 2, 1932, in Washington, DC. He decided to become a baseball player after attending a baseball clinic run by Jerry Brady, a major league player who plays for the Washington Senators.
Wells told the Great Falls (Mont) Tribune in 2001, “I didn’t own a pair of shoes. Until this guy came to our projects, I didn’t even know we had MLB in Washington. But he singled me out. He told me I had some talent. And in That time and there, at the age of 10, I knew I wanted to be a major player in the league.”
He signed a minor contract with the Dodgers at the age of 17 and made his debut with them a decade later.
After regaining sobriety, he resumed his coaching duties, most recently with the Dodgers, and devoted considerable time to drug and alcohol education. Wills first appeared as a candidate on the National Baseball Hall of Fame Golden Age committee ballot in 2015. The election required 12 votes and the wills received nine.
At the Dodgers’ spring training facility in Vero Beach, Florida, Wells learned advanced running and bungee techniques from an area called “Morri’s Pit.” He also worked as a color commentator for the Fargo-Moorhead (ND) RedHawks at the independent American Assn. For 22 years, he retired in 2017.
He credited the calm atmosphere in North Dakota for helping him maintain sobriety.
“I feel freedom ,” He told the wills to Kurt Streeter in The Times in 2008. “Totally Free. No bad feelings, no resentment. … Hello.”
He is survived by his wife Carla and six children – Barry Wells, Mickey Wells, Bomb Wells, Anita Wells, Susan Quam and Wendy Joe Wells.
Cooper is a former staff writer for The Times.
Assistant Sports Editor Steve Henson contributed to this report.