In full uniform the 78-year old 1962 MVP slowly ambled up the dugout steps making his way onto the hallowed grounds he knew better then anyone else. No one ushered in Chavez Ravine like Maury Wills did 49 year ago when he set the baseball world asunder with his record setting 104 stolen bases.
If you read any of the biographies from the Dodgers who played in 1962 one constant theme stays true from book to book. Maury Wills paid a price for those 104 stolen bases. Maury was a small man but he was built like a bull, and he needed that strength to see him through the 1962 season. Abrasion after abrasion followed him that year but he did not relent in his quest to help the Dodgers score runs, and score runs they did, putting up 842 runs.
Watching Maury hop out onto the field, I was struck how much I loved it when Dodgers from our past get to work with the Dodgers of our present and future. Nothing much was happening so I lingered close enough to Maury to over hear a conversation he started with another coach and media person. I heard him say Marichal and I was hooked.
This is the story that Maury layed out for his audience, the day before Marichal clobbered Roseboro over the head the Dodgers were facing Gaylord Perry who was setting the Dodgers down with no problem. Late in the game Maury decided he couldn't hit Perry on this day so he leaned his bat back and then swung with the idea of drawing a catchers interference and it worked. He then stole 2nd, and 3rd and scored the run they needed to win the game. The Giants were very upset with how Maury got on base and that is why Marichal was pitching inside to the Dodgers the following day when the incident happened.
That is what I heard, and while some of it may have gotten lost in the translation between the air and my old ears, I'm pretty sure I got the gist of it. When I got home I was curious to see how much of this had in fact happened because it was 45 years ago, so I hit Baseball Reference to see how much could be verified.
While the story does not quite ring true what I did uncover was a beauty of a baseball game. Gaylord Perry did not pitch on Aug 21st, he pitched on Aug 19 in relief. Maury was right that Perry was setting the team down, Perry came in the top of the 9th of 5 -3 game and hit Maury Wills with a pitch. Maury did not score, and in the bottom of the 9th Big D gave up a two run home run to ex - Dodger Tom Haller with ex - Dodger and future team home run leader Len Gabrielson on base to tie the game. Perry shut out the Dodgers from the 9th until 14th, but in the 15th inning Sweet Lou Johnson belted a two run home run as the Dodgers went on to win 8 - 5. Maury did not factor in any of the scoring after the 9th inning.
This game was full of the greatest players in Dodger / Giant history. HOF Don Drysdale matched up against HOF Warren Spahn, Perranoski matched up in relief against HOF Gaylord Perry, HOF Willie Mays, HOF Willie McCovey, HOF, and HOF Orlando Cepeda were in the impressive Giant lineup. Don Drysdale blasted a home run his sixth of the year off of Warren Spahn who hit 35 home runs as a pitcher besting Big D's mark of 29.
In today's game of baseball Joe Torre would have emptied his bullpen to fulfill the requirements of a 15 inning game. In 1962, Don Drysdale went the first eleven innings, and Ron Perranoski finished up the final four. Of course in 1965 it made no sense to pinch hit for Big D since he really was the best hitter on the team that year.
While Maury's memory may not have it right, the game he was talking about might have been the game of the year for the Dodgers, and I'm glad I overhead his conversation or I would not have had inclination to look up this game. The Dodgers would need every win that year as they only won the pennant by two games over a brilliant San Francisco Giant team on their way to their third Wold Championship as the Los Angeles Dodgers.