Luis Aparicio

Luis Aparicio“Little Looey” Aparicio received honors in his career, finally earning the ultimate in 1984 when he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The quick shortstop from Venezuela was American League Rookie of the Year in 1956, an All-Star ten times, and earned nine Gold Glove Awards. Despite being a singles hitter who topped out at ten homers and never had as many as thirty doubles in a season, Aparicio earned MVP votes in nine seasons spanning from the age of 22 and 38. In 1959 when his White Sox won the pennant, their only flag between 1919 and 2005, Aparicio was second in MVP voting.

The only man who finished ahead of Aparicio in the ’59 AL MVP vote was Nellie Fox, his teammate and double play partner. For seven seasons from 1956-1962, the duo formed one of the best double play duos in baseball history. In those seven seasons Aparicio was an All-Star five times and Nellie made it six times. They were masters at turning the double play, combining for eight Gold Gloves (five for Aparicio). In 1997, 13 years after his partner had been elected to the Hall, Fox was also elected to Cooperstown.

Aparicio helped reintroduce the stolen base to baseball. As a rookie he swiped 21 bases, a figure good enough to lead the American League. He later peaked at 57 steals, helping to bring speed on the basepaths back as a weapon in the league. He led the AL in steals in each of his first nine seasons, from 1956 to 1964.

In the middle of his career, the Pale Hose traded Aparicio to the Baltimore Orioles in a deal that brought Hoyt Wilhelm to Chicago. In Baltimore, Aparicio teamed with second baseman Jerry Adair to form another airtight middle infield. In 1966, Aparicio and the O’s defeated the Dodgers in a four-game sweep in the World Series, giving Luis his only title.

Showing his worth into his late thirties, Aparicio was a key figure on the Red Sox in 1972, helping that club battle to the final day of the season for the division title before being edged out by the Tigers. He played in 132 games in 1973 at the age of 39 and was still a quality player, but the Red Sox released him during spring training the following March. Boston wanted to look at young shortstop Rick Burleson. Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner offered Aparicio a blank contract to play the 1974 season in pinstripes, but Aparicio was done with the game and returned to Venezuela.

When Aparicio retired before the 1974 season he held the major league record for most games played by a shortstop.