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Here's a fast fact for you: Wills should be in the Hall

T.J. SIMERS

February 27, 2007|T.J. SIMERS

He was a wonderful thief, the best in the business.

And they just couldn't catch him, Maury Wills stealing almost any time he wanted, and changing the way they thought about playing the game of Major League Baseball.

But now, it's almost as if they are trying to make up for every time they just missed throwing the guy out, stopping him short from entering the Baseball Hall of Fame time and time again.

When the Veterans Committee announces its voting results today, Wills is expected once again to be left out of the Hall of Fame.

"I have people, who ask me when I'm signing autographs, to include the year I went into the Hall of Fame," Wills said. "And I have to tell them I never went in."

Wills became eligible for the Hall of Fame almost 30 years ago, but the wait continues. Most baseball people will tell you that it's an injustice that such players as Gil Hodges, Ron Santo and Wills are not already in the Hall.

Hodges and Santo fell eight votes shy two years ago when the Veterans Committee last voted, while Wills stood far back -- 54 votes shy of being properly recognized. Just enough votes to put his name back on the ballot -- to be rejected once again.

"A number of years ago I agonized over the results, even drank over it," said Wills, who is in Vero Beach, Fla., working with the Dodgers. "That's right, I drank over it. I didn't handle it very well.

"But I've grown up since then. I've learned to deal with it. I began to focus on my blessings, just being here in Dodgertown, these young players putting their confidence in me, showing me respect and the Dodgers allowing me to be in uniform."

In 1962, Wills blew past Ty Cobb's stolen base record and swiped 104 bases on his way to being named the National League's most valuable player -- beating out Willie Mays.

But does he belong in the Hall of Fame?

"If you measure the impact on the game and the contributions I made to my team, and even my numbers -- why not me?" Wills said.

He not only brought meaningful speed to the game, but helped the Dodgers win three World Series titles.

"I'm not antagonistic, not hopeful, not disappointed, just trying to be at peace with it," he said. "After all, I'm powerless now to do anything about it.

"But you know what, two years ago at an exhibition game down here they gathered together all the players and coaches at home plate. They told everyone the announcement would be coming the next day on the Hall of Fame selections, but no matter how it came out, they all wanted me to know: 'You're our Hall of Famer.'

"That was good enough for me."

*

SO I'M kidding Shaun Livingston before the game that he's no longer a kid and it's time for the gloves to come off. A few minutes later he went down for the count, and probably the rest of the season.

On a driving attempt to score early in Monday night's game with Charlotte, he landed awkwardly on his left leg, dislocated his knee and was carted off the court on a stretcher.

A few minutes earlier he had been saying it was time for him to begin living up to expectations. "I haven't performed at a level that I should be, and it's totally on me as a player," he said, and how refreshing to hear someone in the Clippers' locker room take responsibility for things gone wrong. Are you listening, Tim Thomas?

"You're not going to be young forever, and people get tired of waiting," Livingston said. "I think I've shown what I can do at the defensive end, but now I've got to make strides at the offensive end."

In an attempt to do just that, his last stride left him rolling on the ground in pain, progress now put off probably until next season.

*

VLADIMIR RADMANOVIC, a self-acknowledged liar, injured his shoulder while snowboarding, and yet before he came clean, no one stepped forward to say they noticed the 6-foot-10 Laker on the slopes. But then again, he has pretty much gone unnoticed all season.

*

SEVERAL PEOPLE e-mailed asking where they might be able to make a donation in the name of NASCAR fan Tom Egan, the Home Depot store manager who was gunned down during a robbery attempt of the Tustin store a few weeks ago.

No word though from Home Depot NASCAR driver Tony Stewart.

Any Bank of America branch will accept a donation made out to the Tom Egan Fund (Acct. No. 1027870292), as will any Home Depot store (ask for the special services desk). Home Depot is also matching any donation dollar-for-dollar.

The Santa Ana store (3500 West MacArthur Blvd., Santa Ana, 92704) has established a college fund for Egan's children, 3-year-old twins, Katie and Jenna.

*

NASCAR DRIVER Carl Edwards called Saturday night. He said he was waiting to give me a ride -- at 180 miles per hour -- around California Speedway. I told him Stewart had ruined my day, and I could tell that he could relate.

*

ORANGE COUNTY'S Paul Salata, who came up with the idea of honoring the last player selected in the NFL draft, obviously has an eye on the NFL talent currently working out for teams in Indianapolis.

"Most of the scouts there will have stop watches to get the 40 times, but I'll have an alarm clock," Salata explained. "My guy just needs to get up in the morning."

*

TODAY'S LAST word comes in e-mail from Nikoletta Chabay:

\o7 "Have you taken into account Tony Stewart has won a championship in every league he has ever raced in? Stewart is just the 14th driver in NASCAR history with more than one championship. It took him only six years to be a multiple cup champion."

\f7 He's a real winner, all right.

--

\o7T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.

\f7

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