Dodgers legend Maury Wills wore number 30 when he was setting records and changing the game of baseball as a base-stealing machine in the 1960s. It's no coincidence that Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts wore number 30 when he played for L.A. and wears it again in his current role.
Roberts was an excellent base-stealer himself, averaging nearly 25 per year in his 10-year career. The defining moment of Roberts' playing career came in the 2004 ALCS, when he stole second base and scored the tying run in Game 4 to help his Red Sox win the game and eventually come all the way back from a 3-0 deficit in the series to beat the Yankees. The Red Sox, of course, went on to sweep the Cardinals in the World Series for their first title in 86 years.
Wills, who passed away on Monday night at the age of 89, was a mentor to Roberts during his playing days with the Dodgers and in his time as L.A. manager. Before the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader at Dodger Stadium, Roberts sat down with the media and talked about his relationship with the 1962 NL MVP and three-time World Series champion.
“I am going to have a heavy heart. Maury was very impactful to me – personally, professionally. He’s going to be missed.
“This one is going to be tough for me. He did a lot for the community and a lot for the Dodgers. He was a friend, a father, a mentor – all of the above for me. So this is a tough one for me.
“He just loved the game of baseball, loved working and loved the relationship with players. We spent a lot of time together. A lot of time. He just kind of showed me to appreciate my craft, showed me how to be a big-leaguer. He just loved to teach. I think a lot of where I get my excitement, my passion, my love for players is from Maury.
“I remember during games when I played here he would come down from the suite and tell me I needed to bunt or I needed to do this. I’d meet him at the end of the dugout. The coach would say, ‘Hey, Maury is at the end of the dugout. He wants to talk to you.’ It just showed that he was in it with me. Even to this day, he would be there cheering for me, rooting for me.”
Wills and Roberts gravitated to each other in spring of 2002, Doc's first season with Los Angeles. In a 2002 interview, Roberts said, "I wanted someone who would give me a chance." Wills said, "I wanted someone who would listen." They were a perfect pair, and they worked tirelessly together, on bunting, on running, on baseball.
The relationship stayed strong, as is evident from Roberts' emotion in discussing Wills. Everyone in Dodgers Nation will miss Maury Wills, but perhaps no one as much as the team's skipper.