Stealing Hits as Well as Stealing Bases

 

The Glove Club: Luis Aparicio

For a decade beginning in the mid-1950s, Luis Aparicio was the premier shortstop in the American League. He earned that status with quick feet that resurrected the stolen base as a potent offensive weapon. And with defense that was unparalleled between second and third base.

Aparicio made his major league debut with the Chicago White Sox in 1956, batting .266 and winning Rookie-of-the-Year honors. He also led the American League with 21 stolen bases, a feat he would repeat for the next eight consecutive seasons.

Luis Aparicio won nine Gold Gloves at shortstop for the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles. His career fielding percentage was .972.

At his peak, from 1959-1964, Aparicio averaged 48 stolen bases, more than anyone else in baseball. He batted only .260 over that period, but scored an average of 85 runs per season. He was known for his speed on the base paths and for his “smarts” as a base stealer. His skill as a base stealer nearly overshadowed his abilities in the field.

Aparicio had great range as a shortstop and a strong throwing arm. He also wore a very dependable glove. He led American League shortstops in putouts four times, in assists seven times and in fielding percentage eight times. He finished with a .972 fielding percentage. He won nine Gold Gloves at shortstop, seven with the White Sox and two as a member of the Baltimore Orioles.

Aparicio retired in 1973 after 18 major league seasons. At his retirement, Aparicio was the all-time leader in games played at shortstop (the only position he ever played) and most hits by a shortstop (until surpassed by Derek Jeter in 2009). He also held the major league record for career assists and double plays, as well as the American League record for putouts and total chances by a shortstop.

A 10-time All-Star, Aparicio was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.

 

 

4 comments
  1. The emergence of baseball in Venezuela (Aparicio’s native land) began around 1900 when an American businessman, William Phelps opened a department store. He imported baseball equipment from the United States, and saw the need to educate thelocal boys about the game in order to sell his merchandise. Phelps taught kids the rules of the game, which they quickly understood. He was the first umpire of documented games and built the first baseball field in the coastal city of Maracaibo. The country fell in love with base ball (two words) and called it “the game of 4 corners.”

  2. Great article on an underrated player. He played a very important role in the Oriole powerhouse teams of the late 60’s and early 70’s without ever playing an inning for them. He was traded to the O’s in 1963 and won a WS with them in ’66. After the ’67 season, the O’s had Mark Belanger (and his glove) and no longer needed Aparicio. They traded him back to the Sox for Don Buford who filled a LF need for Baltimore. The rest is history.

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