Ah, those steals. At 6'3", 190 pounds, Wilson isn't supposed to steal. Conventional wisdom decrees that because of his long legs a tall player gets a slow jump and has difficulty lowering his body to slide. But Wilson is built along the lines of Dave Parker and Dave Winfield—prototypal, big, modern players who excel in all phases of the game.
Wilson takes a short lead. "Why waste my energy diving back to first on pick-offs," he says, peeling off a FLEET FEET T shirt, "when I can get to second faster than anyone else from where I am?" Employing a technique learned from Maury Wills, Wilson rocks back and forth to pick up momentum, thrusts his right shoulder toward second and uses the muscles in his upper thighs and buttocks to accelerate. In only his second full major league season Wilson has become so proficient a base stealer that he succeeds despite such anti-theft devices as pick-offs and pitchouts.
Exhausted by his maternity-ward vigil and admittedly tense before the home-folk, Wilson was not at his best against New York. As might be expected of an inexperienced 24-year-old, he showed some rough edges, misplaying a fly ball into a triple, lunging at pitches and being caught stealing for the first time in 26 tries dating back to July 23. Even so, he was both entertaining and effective. As Kansas City won 8-3 on Thursday, Wilson ran down George Scott's 420-foot fly and took the life out of New York's only rally by throwing out speedy Willie Randolph at the plate. The next night Tommy John beat the Royals 7-3, but Wilson made his day special by scoring from first on a double that Lou Piniella cut off in medium left-center. Wilson had two hits on Saturday as the Royals came from five runs behind to win 9-8. On Sunday he extended his hitting streak to 14 games as Kansas City lost 6-5. Wilson put on a show in the first inning when he singled to right, stole second, advanced to third on a fly ball to left and scored on a drive to center.
Nonetheless, Wilson was happy to leave New York. By nature, he is a shy and sensitive man who answers the applause of Kansas City fans by tipping his hat and looking down at his shoes. The added attention in New York made him even more uncomfortable. "I like the Summit people, but I'm more afraid of speaking to them than playing baseball," he said.
Like any base stealer, Wilson subjects his body to considerable wear and tear. His right knee and thigh are cut and bruised, and he suffers from aching feet, though he wears special insoles in his shoes. Lately, he has been so tired and sore that while standing in leftfield he doesn't move his feet between pitches and he forgoes practice swings in the on-deck circle. But when he comes to the plate, Willie takes wing.