Luis Aparacio

Playing side by side with Nellie Fox during the late 1950s and early 1960s, Aparicio helped form the nucleus of one of the slickest-fielding infield combinations in baseball. His 506 stolen bases ranked him seventh all-time when he retired, and he holds the lifetime shortstop records for games, double plays, and assists and the AL records for putouts and total chances. He dominated on a season-to-season basis too; in the first thirteen years of his career, he led AL shortstops eight consecutive years in fielding, seven times in assists, four times in putouts, twice each in total chances per game and double plays, and only once in errors.

Aparicio succeded Chico Carrasquel, continuing the Venezuelan connection that gave the White Sox amazing depth at shortstop for years. Chicago was so confident in him as a rookie that they traded Carrasquel, a perennial fan favorite, to Cleveland for Larry Doby. Named Rookie of the Year in 1956, Aparicio lead the league in stolen bases for the first of nine straight years. White Sox manager Marty Marion advised Aparicio to shorten his stance and stride into the pitch. Then he was told to play deeper to gain more range. His cannonlike arm took care of the rest. Bill Veeck arrived on the scene in 1959 and was amazed. “He’s the best I’ve ever seen. He makes plays which I know can’t possibly be made, yet he makes them almost every day.”

Always a steady hitter, but never on of the great ones, Aparicio relied on his speed to make things happen in an era known for lead-footed sluggers. With Aparicio leading off followed by Fox in the lineup, Chicago had a deadly hit-and-run duo that helped catapult them to their first pennant in 40 years. Fittingly, it was Aparicio who fielded the ground ball off of Vic Power‘s bat that clinched it on September 22, 1959. In 1963, a new general manager decided a house-cleaning was in order, so Aparicio was sent to the Orioles. He established a since-broken AL shortstop record for fielding percentage that year (.983) and remained long enough to get into another World Series in 1966. He had lost some speed, but compensated by becoming a better hitter. Returning to Chicago in 1968, he enjoyed some of his finest years. He topped the .300 mark for the only time in his career in 1970, a year in which his team finished dead last in the standings with 106 losses.

Aparicio played his 2,219th game on September 25, 1970 in front of a mere 2,000 fans to break Luke Appling‘s record of games played at shortstop. Rumors abounded that he was to be the Sox manager at the start of the 1971 season, but instead the club traded him to Boston for Mike Andrews. Aparicio finished his career in 1973, and in 1984 he took his place in the Hall of Fame. Now residing in Venezuela, his son’s name is Nelson, after Luis’s long-time sidekick Nellie Fox.