- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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"When you have 25 men on a team you have 25 different personalities," he said. "It would be abnormal not to have conflicts. When you find a club that is totally happy and without conflicts you also find a club that is not going to win. The years when the Dodgers lost, they were also the happiest. You don't know what a man is made of until you have had a little go-around with him. He's probably trying to win just as hard—maybe harder—than you are, but until each of you gets it out of your system you don't know. This brings you closer together for the overall good of the team. Before you have your squabble with the guy you wouldn't holler across the street to say hello to him, but after the thing is over you find yourself walking across the street to shake his hand every time you see him. There were times when Walter Alston made me mad, and I'd hate to have to count the times I made him mad. But I had only the greatest respect for him, and I think he respected me, too, because we were both dedicated to winning for the Dodgers.
"I have a salary and a status that calls for certain results. I must deliver, whether it is in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh or Kokomo. Pressure? That's a word that is used too much in sports. Pressure, to me, is when you have a feeling that you can not produce. I try to practice at everything and find things out so that I can handle any situation that might come up on the field.
"Once I said that third base was 'the old-folks' home' and now I want to take that back. I have played there before [50 games in 1963 was the longest period], but I must learn to play it better. At shortstop you had time to adjust to plays but at third the ball comes off the bat differently."
After he had finished talking Maury walked over to the Baltimore dugout and asked Brooks Robinson some questions about playing third base. Robinson and Wills talked, the two of them standing in the Miami twilight swinging their gloves this way and that as if practicing for a water ballet. When Wills left to go back to the Pirate dugout Hank Bauer, the Oriole manager, rose to shake hands with him and then watched him walk away. "He knows how to win," Bauer said. "He'll do anything to win. Look at his shoes. Track shoes! What's the rule on that?"
Wills stole three bases that night to beat the Orioles 1-0, and last week Warren Giles ruled that Maury could not wear his track shoes this year. Ah, the dramatic and constant search for the little extra edges that go toward winning what the players sometimes call "the peanut."
As a Pirate, Wills will bat second in a lineup stocked with good hitters, and Walker wants Maury to play as he played in his seven and one-half years as a Dodger. "I want him to try to steal even if we have a big lead and to try the hit-and-run in the late innings. I want him to try the things he has perfected. There will be days when we'll need that late-inning stolen base to help win a ball game, and if he hasn't been stealing bases to begin with then he is going to be hesitant to run when we need it. He plays hard, and that's the way I want him to play. Maury Wills can mean more to us than a stolen base, a bunt, a good play, a hit-and-run. He can mean a winner."
Back in February, on the very first day of spring training at Fort Myers, Maury Wills had said, "I have always been public enemy No. 1 to the Pirates, and the feeling was mutual." Like everything else in this promising season that, too has changed.
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