Happy birthday, Luis Aparicio
By Samantha Carr and Craig Muder
Few players can say they changed the way baseball is played. Before Luis Aparicio revitalized the running game 50 years ago, the stolen base was on its way to becoming an archaic footnote.
Aparicio, who turns 75 Wednesday, turned the baseball world upside down in 1959 by stealing 56 bases for the Chicago White Sox. Only one other American League team — the Detroit Tigers with 68 — had as many steals as Aparicio that year. The Sox shortstop finished second in the AL Most Valuable Player voting that year, leading Chicago to the AL pennant.
Aparicio had led the AL in steals in each of his first three seasons before 1959 and went on to lead the league every season through 1964. That year, with a career-high 57 steals for the Orioles, Aparicio swiped more bags than six other AL teams.
But baseball was catching up to Aparicio — especially in the National League, where Maury Wills and the Dodgers were building an offense around speed. By 1969, when Aparicio topped the 20-steal mark for the 12th and final time, five AL clubs recorded at least 100 stolen bases — a mark not reached in the Junior Circuit from 1946-56.
The Venezuelan-born Aparicio, a 13-time All-Star, played every one of his 2,583 Major League games in the field at shortstop, winning nine Gold Gloves. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame 25 years ago after an 18-year big league career with the White Sox, Orioles and Red Sox.
Happy birthday, Little Louie!
Samantha Carr is the media relations coordinator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Craig Muder is director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.