On This Date in Sports September 23, 1962: The Art of Stealing
In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
Maury Wills of the Los Angeles Dodgers breaks the record for stolen bases held by Ty Cobb for 47 years. Wills steals two bases, bringing his total to 97 on the season. Despite Maury Wills' base stealing, the Dodgers lose to the St. Louis Cardinals 12-2 at Sportsman's Park. Maury Wills would become the first player in MLB history to steal 100 bases in a season, finishing with 104 as he was named National League MVP.
Maury Wills was born in Washington, DC, on October 2, 1932. He was born into a large family, the seventh of 13 children. Wills played semi-pro ball while starring in three sports at Cardozo Senior High School. He was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1950 but toiled in the minors for eight seasons as Pee Wee Reese was entrenched at shortstop. Wills was picked up by the Detroit Tigers but returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1959 due to his high salary.
Pee Wee Reese retired in 1958, opening the door to Maury Wills, who made his debut on June 6, 1959. Wills provided a spark helping the Dodgers win the 1959 World Series. After winning a Gold Glove and making two All-Star appearances in 1961, Maury Wills helped carry an often lackluster Dodgers lineup with his ability to steal bases. The stolen base had become an afterthought in recent years, but Wills helped make it a weapon by stealing often in 1962. He had led the National League with 50 steals in 1960 and 35 in 1961, but by becoming the first player to reach 100 steals in a season, he helped the Dodgers battle for the National League Pennant.
Maury Wills tied the record set by Ty Cobb in 1915 by swiping his 96th bag in the third inning. He would break the record with a stolen base in the seventh inning. Despite Maury Wills' theft on the bases, the Cardinals crushed the Dodgers 12-2. The Dodgers and San Francisco Giants would finish deadlocked at 101-61 at the end of the season. The Giants would play in the World Series after a three-game series with the Dodgers, as Maury Wills was named National League MVP in 1962.
Maury Wills would not top 100 steals again but led the National League the next three seasons, topping off at 94 steals in 1965. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates after the 1966 season. In 1969, Maury Wills was a member of the expansion Montreal Expos, where he was the first batter in franchise history. After two months in Montreal, Wills was traded to the Dodgers, where he finished his career in 1972.
Lou Brock would break Maury Wills' record of 104 steals in 1974, stealing 118 bases for the St. Louis Cardinals. The current record of 129 steals was set by Rickey Henderson in 1982.