Dodgers’ Dave Roberts has ‘heavy coronary heart’ after loss of life of mentor Maury Wills

By Rowan Kavner
FOX Sports activities MLB Author

Dave Roberts wore the numbers 52 and 10 when his major-league taking part in profession started in cleveland. Upon a commerce to The Angels in 2002, I’ve switched his quantity to 30.

He made the change in honor of Dodgers legend Maury Wills, the baserunning paragon whose loss of life Monday at his house in Sedona, Arizona, left Roberts combating again tears as he described what the three-time World Sequence champion meant to him.

“I discovered final night time,” Roberts mentioned earlier than the Dodgers’ Tuesday doubleheader towards the Diamondbacks. “I do know he handed peacefully. I’m going to have a heavy coronary heart. Maury was very impactful to me, personally, professionally.”

Wills’ daring baserunning revolutionized the sport within the early Nineteen Sixties. The seven-time All-Star led the league in stolen bases for six straight seasons from 1960 to 1965 and set a major-league report on the time with 104 stolen bases in an MVP 1962 season. He additionally received the second of his two Gold Glove Awards that 12 months as a Dodger shortstop.

Sixty years later, one other prolific base-stealer is now the supervisor of the Dodgers. Roberts discovered from Wills, one other light-hitting speedster who needed to battle his method to major-league taking part in time.

“He was a pal, a father, a mentor, all the above for me,” Roberts mentioned. “So, it is a powerful one for me.”

Wills performed within the minor leagues from 1951 to 1959, stealing 281 bases in that point earlier than taking these abilities to the massive leagues with the Dodgers.

Roberts was a Twenty eighth-round select of UCLA in 1994. He did not debut till 1999 and solely performed sparingly till he was dealt to Los Angeles, the place Wills’ baserunning tutelage helped him steal 123 bases over elements of three seasons. By then, Wills had grow to be an teacher for the Dodgers. The realm the place Wills labored with gamers on bunting and baserunning grew to become generally known as “Maury’s Pit.”

“He simply cherished the sport of baseball, cherished working and cherished the connection with gamers,” Roberts mentioned. “We spent plenty of time collectively. He sort of actually simply confirmed me to understand my craft and what it’s to be a giant leaguer. He simply cherished to show. I feel plenty of the place I get my pleasure, my ardour, my love for gamers is from him.”

In Roberts, Wills noticed a little bit of himself. Roberts, who snagged 45 bases in his first season with the Dodgers and carved out a 10-year taking part in profession, mentioned he would not assume he’d be the place he’s at the moment with out Wills, whose enthralling feats on the basepaths brought about Dodgers followers to rise to their toes and shout, “Go! Go! Go!”

Wills as soon as informed Sports activities Illustrated he may have a look at his uniform and know the sort of day he had. If it was clear, he did not really feel he had finished his job.

“I bear in mind even throughout video games after I performed right here, he would come down from the suite and inform me I have to bunt or do that,” Roberts mentioned. “I might come and meet him on the finish of the dugout. The coach would say, ‘Hey, Maury’s on the finish of the dugout, he desires to speak to you.’ So, it simply confirmed that he was in it with me. Even to at the present time, he could be there cheering for me and rooting for me.”

Wills performed 14 major-league seasons, together with elements of 12 seasons with the Dodgers. He has stole 586 bases in his profession, which ranks twentieth all time, and batted .281. Whereas his profession 88 OPS+ didn’t match different Corridor of Fame candidates, and he by no means did get inducted into the esteemed Corridor, his affect throughout his time was unquestionable. Wills tallied 5 hits within the 1959 World Sequence, scoring a run and knocking in a run within the deciding Recreation 6 win towards the White Sox. Six years later, Wills went 11-for-30 with three stolen bases within the 1965 World Sequence.

After his taking part in days, Wills served as a baseball analyst for NBC Sports activities for six years and later grew to become supervisor of the Seattle Mariners in 1980-81. He went 26-56 in a brief tenure as supervisor and later opened up about alcohol and drug-abuse battles that might observe. However he would get well and assist the Dodgers once more in each a instructing function at spring coaching and with the staff’s group relations division.

His phrases of knowledge in “Maury’s Pit” would serve Roberts properly, even after his time as a Dodger ended.

After Roberts was traded to Boston in 2004, his iconic steal within the ninth inning of Recreation 4 of the American League Championship Sequence flipped the collection towards the Yankees. Wills’ daring voice caught in Roberts’ head as he darted for second base in a comeback win. The Pink Sox stormed again from a 3-0 collection deficit to win the ALCS and the World Sequence.

“I bear in mind Maury Wills on the backfield in Vero Seashore,” Roberts informed MLB.com in 2014. “He mentioned, ‘DR, one among today you are going to must steal an essential base when everybody within the ballpark is aware of you ‘re gonna steal, however you have to steal that base, and you may’t be afraid to steal that base.’ So, simply sort of trotting out onto the sector that night time, I used to be enthusiastic about him.'”

The Dodgers will put on a jersey patch for the rest of the 2022 season to commemorate Wills.

“I do know he is resting in a greater place at the moment,” Roberts mentioned.

Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and NL West for FOX Sports activities. He beforehand was the Dodgers’ editor of digital and print publications. Comply with him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.



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