Aparicio in 1995
|Born: April 29, 1934|
|April 17, 1956, for the Chicago White Sox|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 28, 1973, for the Boston Red Sox|
|Runs batted in||791|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
|Vote||84.62% (sixth ballot)|
Luis Ernesto Aparicio Montiel (born April 29, 1934), nicknamed "Little Louie", is a Venezuelan former professional baseball player who is notable for being the first player from Venezuela to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He played as a shortstop in Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1956 to 1973, most notably for the Chicago White Sox with whom he became known for his exceptional defensive and base stealing skills.
Aparicio won the American League (AL) Rookie of the Year Award in 1956. He helped the "Go-Go" White Sox win the AL championship in 1959 and was the AL Most Valuable Player (MVP) runner-up that season (he led the AL in stolen bases, putouts, assists, and fielding as shortstop). He was an AL All-Star for ten seasons,[a] an AL stolen base leader for 9 consecutive seasons, and an AL Gold Glove winner for 9 seasons.
Aparicio was born in Maracaibo, Zulia State, Venezuela. His father, Luis Aparicio Sr., was a notable shortstop in Venezuela and owned a Winter League team with Aparicio's uncle, Ernesto Aparicio. At the age of 19, Aparicio was selected as a member of the Venezuelan team in the 1953 Amateur World Series held in Caracas. He signed to play for the local professional team in Maracaibo alongside his father in 1953. In a symbolic gesture during the team's 1953 home opener, his father led off as the first hitter of the game, took the first pitch, and had Aparicio Jr. take his place at bat.
The Cleveland Indians had been negotiating to sign Aparicio, but Indians General Manager Hank Greenberg expressed the opinion that he was too small to play in the major leagues. Chicago White Sox General Manager Frank Lane, on the recommendation of fellow Venezuelan shortstop Chico Carrasquel, then signed Aparicio for $5,000 down and $5,000 in first year salary. After only two years in the minor leagues, he made his major league debut at the age of 22, replacing Carrasquel as the White Sox shortstop in 1956. Aparicio would lead the American League in stolen bases, assists, and putouts, and won both the Rookie of the Year and The Sporting News Rookie of the Year awards. He was the first Latin American player to win the Rookie of the Year award.
Aparicio quickly became an integral member of the Go-Go White Sox teams of the mid-1950s, who were known for their speed and strong defense. Over the next decade, Aparicio set the standard for the spray-hitting, slick-fielding, speedy shortstop. He combined with second baseman Nellie Fox to become one of the best double play combinations in major league baseball. Aparicio once again led the American League in stolen bases and assists in 1957 as the White Sox would hold first place until late June before finishing the season in second place behind the New York Yankees.
In 1958, Aparicio earned recognition as one of the top shortstops in major league baseball when he was selected to be the starting shortstop for the American League in the 1958 All-Star Game. The White Sox would once again finish the season in second place behind the Yankees, after being in last place on June 14. Aparicio again led the league in stolen bases, assists and putouts, and would win his first Gold Glove Award.
Aparicio was the team leader when the "Go-Go" White Sox won the American League pennant in 1959, finishing the regular season five games ahead of the Cleveland Indians. Aparicio finished the runner-up to team-mate Nellie Fox in the American League Most Valuable Player Award balloting. He was selected as a starting All-Star for the second time and also won a second Gold Glove award. He posted a .308 batting average in the 1959 World Series as the White Sox were defeated by the Los Angeles Dodgers in a six-game series. When Aparicio stole 50 bases in his first 61 attempts in 1959, the term "Aparicio double" was coined to represent a walk and a stolen base. Following the death of teammate Johnny Romano, Aparicio became the last surviving player to play with the White Sox in the 1959 World Series.
In 1960 and 1961, Aparicio continued to be one of the top shortstops in the American League, finishing at or near the top in fielding percentage and assists. In 1962, he showed up overweight and had an off year and the White Sox offered him a reduction in salary for the 1963 season. An enraged Aparicio said that he would quit rather than accept a decrease in pay and demanded to be traded. The White Sox eventually traded him to the Baltimore Orioles with Al Smith for Hoyt Wilhelm, Ron Hansen, Dave Nicholson and Pete Ward in January 1963.
Aparicio regained his form in Baltimore and continued to lead the league in stolen bases and in fielding percentage, producing a career-high .983 fielding percentage in 1963. Together with Brooks Robinson and Jerry Adair, he was part of one of the better defensive infields in baseball. In 1964, he would lead the league in stolen bases for a ninth consecutive year and win his sixth Gold Glove Award. Aparicio posted a .276 batting average with 182 hits in 1966, tied with teammate Frank Robinson for the second-most hits in the league behind Tony Oliva and won a seventh Gold Glove Award as the Orioles clinched their first American League pennant. He finished ninth in the American League Most Valuable Player Award balloting and helped the Orioles sweep the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1966 World Series.
With the emergence of Mark Belanger at shortstop, Aparicio was traded back to the White Sox along with Russ Snyder and John Matias for Don Buford, Bruce Howard and Roger Nelson on November 29, 1967. He continued to play well defensively, leading the league in range factor in 1968 and 1969. Aparicio had his best overall offensive season in 1970, scoring 86 runs and finishing fourth in the American League batting race with a career-high .313 average. In addition, he earned his eighth All-Star berth that year, as well as his ninth Gold Glove. Despite the White Sox finishing in last place, Aparicio finished 12th in the 1970 American League Most Valuable Player Award balloting.
After three seasons with the White Sox, Aparicio was traded to the Boston Red Sox for Luis Alvarado and Mike Andrews on December 1, 1970. In 1971, Aparicio was one at bat from tying the longest Major League hitless streak for non-pitchers held by Bill Bergen with 45, set in 1909 with Brooklyn Superbas, by going without a hit in 44 at bats. Aparicio then hit a grand slam home run against the Indians in Cleveland and then led off a night game at Fenway with another home run. He hit only .232 for the year, the second lowest average in his career.
In 1972, Aparicio made a late-season base running blunder that contributed to the Red Sox losing the 1972 American League Eastern Division title by a half-game to the Detroit Tigers. In an October 2 game against Detroit, Aparicio fell while rounding third base on an apparent triple by Carl Yastrzemski, leading to Yastrzemski being tagged out as he tried to retreat to second base. In his last year as an active player in 1973, Aparicio would hit for a .271 average and steal his 500th base, against the New York Yankees, on July 5. He retired at the end of the season at the age of 39.
Aparicio played for 18 major league seasons in 2,599 games, accumulating 2,677 hits in 10,230 at bats for a .262 career batting average along with 394 doubles, 83 home runs, 791 runs batted in, 1,335 runs and 506 stolen bases. He ended his career with a .972 fielding percentage. Aparicio led American League shortstops eight times in fielding percentage, seven times in assists, and four times in range factor and putouts. He led the American League in stolen bases in nine consecutive seasons (1956-64) and won the Gold Glove Award nine times (1958-62, 1964, 1966, 1970). Aparicio was also a ten-time (ten seasons) All Star (1958-64, 1970-72); he was named to 13 out of 14 All-Star Games (MLB held two All-Star Games from 1959 through 1962), and was the starting shortstop in six All-Star games and played in 10 games (he didn't play in the second All-Star game in 1960 and was injured and replaced in the 1964 and 1972 games and didn't play).
At the time of his retirement, Aparicio was the all-time leader for most games played, assists and double plays by a shortstop and the all-time leader for putouts and total chances by an American League shortstop. His nine Gold Glove Awards set an American League record for shortstops, that was tied by Omar Vizquel in 2001. He tied the record of most seasons leading the league in fielding average by shortstops with 8, previously set by Everett Scott and Lou Boudreau.
His 2,583 games played at shortstop stood as the Major League record for that position from his retirement in 1973 until May 2008, when it was surpassed by Omar Vizquel. His 2,677 hits was also the major league record for players from Venezuela, until it was surpassed by Omar Vizquel on June 25, 2009. His 2,673 hits as a shortstop was a record until Derek Jeter broke it on August 17, 2009. He had 13 consecutive seasons with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title and an on-base percentage less than .325, a major league record (His career OBP was slightly better than the shortstop average during his era; .311 vs .309). A more impressive streak was his 16 straight seasons with more than 500 plate appearances, tied for fifth best in major league history. Aparicio never played any defensive position other than shortstop.
Aparicio was inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984, the first native of Venezuela to be honored. The Chicago White Sox also retired Aparicio's uniform number 11 that year. In 2010, the White Sox gave number 11 to shortstop Omar Vizquel, with Aparicio's permission. Vizquel said that wearing the number would preserve the name of a great Venezuelan shortstop. Aparicio commented, "If there is one player who I would like to see wear my uniform number with the White Sox, it is Omar Vizquel. I have known Omar for a long time. Along with being an outstanding player, he is a good and decent man."
In 1981, Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig included Aparicio in their book The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time. In 1999, The Sporting News did not include him on their list of The Sporting News list of Baseball's 100 Greatest Players, but Major League Baseball did list him as one of their 100 nominees for their All-Century Team.
The 2001 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was dedicated jointly to Aparacio, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, and Tony Perez. They, along with Ferguson Jenkins, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to end the player introduction ceremonies.
In 2005, he was given the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Game 1 of the 2005 World Series, the first World Series game to be played in Chicago by the Chicago White Sox since the 1959 World Series, when Aparicio had been the starting shortstop for the White Sox.
In 2004, the first annual Luis Aparicio Award was presented to the Venezuelan player who recorded the best individual performance in Major League Baseball, as voted on by sports journalists in Venezuela.
In honor of Aparicio's stealing abilities, a walk and a stolen base was known as an "Aparicio double"
In 2006, two bronze statues, one depicting Aparicio, the other depicting former White Sox second baseman Nellie Fox, were unveiled on the outfield concourse of U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago. Fox's statue shows him flipping a baseball toward Aparicio, while Aparicio's statue shows him preparing to receive the ball from Fox.
There is a stadium in Maracaibo, Venezuela, bearing his father's name. The full name of the stadium is Estadio Luis Aparicio El Grande (Luis Aparicio "the Great" Stadium) in honor to Luis Aparicio Ortega. Also, the sports complex where the stadium is located is named Polideportivo Luis Aparicio Montiel. There are also several streets and avenues bearing his name throughout Venezuela.
In 2015 Empresas Polar and Fenix Media honored him with a documentary about the impact of Aparicio, who starred for the Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and Boston Red Sox during a career that spanned from the 1950s to the 1970s. Thirty Years of Immortality features footage from the day that Venezuela heard the news that one of its native sons had achieved immortality in Cooperstown with many testimonials of great big leaguers, friends, and family. Isaac Bencid (director) said to the Hall of Fame: "It was a good time to honor Mr. Aparicio because it was the first time he had a documentary made of his life," Bencid said. "I want to make people know in Venezuela. I think sometimes that you in the United States know more about Mr. Aparicio than many Venezuelans. Baseball is very important down there but a lot of young people in Venezuela don't know Mr. Aparicio. What we want to do is honor him and make people know about him."