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 shortstop—assuming 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 standout—leading the league in stolen bases, assists, and total putouts—though 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.
|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 1970-1972—a 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.
|BAL: Baltimore Orioles; BOS: Boston Red Sox; CWS: Chicago White Sox.|
Aparicio presented the ultimate baseball package—exceptional 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.
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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|
"Aparicio, Luis." Notable Sports Figures. . Encyclopedia.com. (March 22, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/sports/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/aparicio-luis
"Aparicio, Luis." Notable Sports Figures. . Retrieved March 22, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/sports/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/aparicio-luis