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Aparicio, Luis

Luis Aparicio

1934-

Venezuelan baseball player

Most will agree that in the game of baseball, power is king. However, one individual who did not fit this mold, yet achieved star status, is Luis Aparicio. "Little Looie" set an example of skill, strength, and dexterity that seized the spotlight usually afforded to power hitters. While home runs were not his specialty, Aparicio's physical prowess and multi-faceted assets as a baseball player in the 1950s, 1960s, and l970s are well recorded in baseball history. In fact, many consider Luis Aparicio to be baseball's best all-around shortstop.

Growing up in Venezuela

Luis Aparicio was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, on April 29, 1934. It's not surprising that he became enraptured with baseball at a very early age. His father, Luis E. Aparicio Sr., a tractor driver for an oil company, was an avid baseball player and the very first Venezuelan to ever be offered a major league contract to play baseball. Playing the game he loved in the Venezuelan league (with the Caracas Club) to the age of 41, Aparicio Sr. passed along his considerable knowledge, teaching his son the "ins" and "outs" of the game and the particulars involved in becoming an effective and valuable team player.

Attending public schools in Maracaibo, Aparicio grew to his 5'9" height, and 155-160 pound weight by high school. In fact, his slight stature later earned him the recognizable nickname of "Little Looie." Deciding that baseball was his destiny, Aparicio left high school after completing two years and began playing with an amateur team in Caracas, Venezuela. Incredibly, he batted .350, which helped to propel his team into the Latin American World Series. Later, he played for the Barquismeto Cardinales.

Following in his father's image, Aparicio became a shortstopassuming the position he would continue to play for his entire professional career. In fact, in 1953, he took his father's place as shortstop for the Maracaibo Gavilanes.

"Discovered" that same year, Aparicio was offered a contract to play for the Chicago White Sox. Moving to the United States, he played with Waterloo, a White Sox farm team in 1954. The following year, he joined the Southern Association, playing for Memphis. He was a standoutleading the league in stolen bases, assists, and total putoutsthough he also led in errors.

Major League Career

Nineteen fifty-six was a banner year for Aparicio. He joined the Chicago White Sox, replacing fellow Venezuelan Chico Carrasquel as the starting shortstop, married Sonia Llorente (and later had five children), and was named the American League's Rookie of the Year. He remained with the White Sox for the next seven years, from 1956 to 1964, during which time he established his dominance at shortstop.

Nineteen fifty-nine was also a magical year for the starting shortstop and his close friend and fielding partner, second baseman, Nellie Fox. Second-baseman Nellie Fox paired with Aparicio for seven consecutive seasons (1956-1962) to form a defensive duo of great distinction. With Aparicio as the lead-off man for the White Sox and Fox batting second, the two earned considerable respect from fans and competitors alike. Opposing teams were well aware of the threat these two posed both on the field and at the plate. Many times players were "cheated" out of hits because of the exacting field chemistry displayed by these two Hall of Famers.

Chronology

1934 Born April 29 in Maracaibo, Venezuela
1950-53 Plays with amateur teams in Venezuela
1953 Replaces his father as shortstop for the Maracaibo Gavilanes in Venezuela
1954 Plays in the minor leagues on Waterloo, a White Sox farm team
1955 Moves to Southern Association; plays with Memphis
1956 Debuts in majors; named Rookie of the Year
1956 Marries Sonia Llorente on October 1
1956-62 Plays with Chicago White Sox
1956-64 American League stolen base leader 9 consecutive years
1959 Helps Chicago White Sox win the pennant
1963-67 Plays with Baltimore Orioles
1968-70 Plays with Chicago White Sox
1971-73 Plays with Boston Red Sox
1984 Named to Baseball Hall of Fame (first Venezuelan player)

This strong pair were instrumental in helping the White Sox overcome their rivals, the New York Yankees, and go on to win the American League pennant. In fact, Aparicio made the final "out" of that season and Nellie Fox was named Most Valuable Player that year (with Aparicio coming in second). It was the first pennant win for the White Sox in forty years.

Traded to the Baltimore Orioles in 1963, Aparicio was a strong addition to his team, with his usual fielding skills. In 1968, Aparicio returned to the White Sox and remained there for the next three seasons. Two of these years were strong batting years for him. In 1969, he hit .280 and in 1970, he achieved his career high .313 batting average.

Establishes Many Records

"Little Looie" earned many honors during his career and established many new records. For the nine years between 1956 and 1964, he was the leader in stolen bases (reaching his highest number of fifty-six in 1959). Further, he earned the honor of being the first major league player since Ty Cobb to steal fifty or more bases three years in a row.

Aparicio was an outstanding fielder and earned great distinction as a Gold Glove winner every year from 1958 to 1962 and then in 1964, 1966, 1968, and 1970. (Gold Gloves are presented to honor the best fielders at their positions.) In addition, Aparicio led all American League shortstops in fielding for eight consecutive years, led five times in games played, seven times in assists, four times in putouts, twice each in total chances per game and double plays, and only once in errors. The American League at-bats leader in 1966, Aparicio ranks first among all shortstops in lifetime games (2,581), double plays (1,553), chances (12,564), and assists (8,016).

Aparicio's high level of performance won him a place on the All-Star team as shortstop from 1958-1964 and 1970-1972a total of ten times. He also ranked as the Sporting News All-Star shortstop every other year from 1964 to 1972.

Moving on After Professional Baseball

With his professional baseball career behind him, Aparicio moved back to his home country, Venezuela, assuming co-ownership of a baseball club there. In 1984, he achieved the highest honor in baseball when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. In another honor, his number was retired by the White Sox the same year.

Career Statistics

Yr Team AVG GP AB R H RBI SO SB SB%
BAL: Baltimore Orioles; BOS: Boston Red Sox; CWS: Chicago White Sox.
1956 CWS .266 152 603 69 142 56 63 21 .840
1957 CWS .257 143 605 82 148 41 55 28 .778
1958 CWS .266 145 569 76 148 40 38 29 .829
1959 CWS .257 152 585 98 157 51 40 56 .812
1960 CWS .277 153 625 86 166 61 39 51 .864
1961 CWS .272 156 579 90 170 45 33 53 .803
1962 CWS .241 153 529 72 140 40 36 31 .721
1963 BAL .250 146 34 73 150 45 35 40 .870
1964 BAL .266 146 49 93 154 37 51 57 .770
1965 BAL .225 144 452 67 127 40 56 26 .788
1966 BAL .276 151 563 97 182 41 42 25 .694
1967 BAL .233 134 600 55 127 31 44 18 .783
1968 CWS .264 155 573 55 164 36 43 17 .607
1969 CWS .280 156 567 77 168 51 29 24 .857
1970 CWS .313 146 250 86 173 43 34 8 .727
1971 BOS .232 125 3 56 114 45 43 6 .600
1972 BOS .257 110 84 47 112 39 28 3 .500
1973 BOS .271 132 550 56 135 49 33 13 .929
TOTAL .262 2599 10230 1335 2677 791 742 506 .788

Aparicio presented the ultimate baseball packageexceptional fielding skills, amazing base running abilities, and fairly good batting numbers. His exceptional base stealing and fielding prowess created a level of fan excitement that was usually only reserved for home run hitters. "Little Looie" truly proved that size is only one measure of an individual's excellence.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Frommer, Harvey. Baseball's Hall of Fame. New York: Franklin Watts, 1985.

"Luis Aparicio." St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. five volumes. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000.

"Luis Aparicio." Discovering Multicultural America. Detroit: Gale, 1996.

"Luis Ernesto Aparicio, Jr." Dictionary of Hispanic Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1996.

Skipper, John C. A Biographical Dictionary of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2000.

Other

BaseballAlmanac-Gold Glove Award: Shortstops. http://www.baseball-almanac.com/awards/aw_ggss.shtml (November 19, 2002).

HickokSports.com-Biography-Luis Aparicio. http://www.hickoksports.com/biograph/aparicio.shtml (November 19, 2002).

Luis Aparicio-Strength Down the Middle. http://www.1959whitesox.com/cgi/player.cgi?player=Aparicio_Luis (November 19, 2002)

Luis Aparicio-BaseballLibrary.com. http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/A/Aparacio_Luis.stm (November 19, 2002)

Luis Aparicio. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/baseball/mlb/stats/alltime/player/batting/5870.html (November 19, 2002)

Luis Aparicio. http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/alltime/playercard?playerId=300=0 (November 19, 2002).

Luis E. Aparicio, Jr. http://www.hickoksports.com/biograph/aparicio.shtml (November 19, 2002).

Luis Aparicio. http://brsmith.mybravenet.com/History/400Pages/al1959.html (November 19, 2002).

National Baseball Hall of Fame - Luis Aparicio's Plaque. http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/plaques/aparicio_luis.htm (November 19, 2002).

National Baseball Hall of Fame-Nellie Fox. http://www.baseballhalloffame.org/hofers_and_honorees/hofer_bios/fox_nellie.htm (November 19, 2002).

Nellie Fox/BaseballLibrary.com. http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/F/Fox_Nellie.stm (November 19, 2002).

Player PagesNellie Fox. http://www.thebaseballpage.com/past/pp/foxnellie/default.htm (November 19, 2002).

Player PagesLuis Aparicio. http://www.thebaseballpage.com/past/pp/aparicioluis/default.htm (November 19, 2002).

Player Profile: Luis Aparicio. http://www.diamondfans.com/profile-aparicio.html (November 19, 2002).

Sketch by Jan Goldberg

Awards and Accomplishments

At the time of his retirement, Aparicio held the major-league record for most games at short (2,581), and American League marks for assists (8,016), double plays (1,553), chances (12,564), and putouts (4,548). He also led the league in stolen bases nine consecutive times (1956-64).
1956 American League Rookie of the Year
1958-64, 1970-72 All-Star Team
1958-62, 1964, 1966, 1968, 1970 Gold Glove Winner
1984 Elected to Hall of Fame
1984 Number retired by White Sox

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