Baseball statistics and baseball stories just go on and on.
Some players are stars, and we all know their names.
Others are the support cast, and we don’t always remember their names, and how important they were to help the stars become the stars.
Jim Gilliam is the answer to a few baseball riddles that most fans can’t answer.
For instance: what player played in seven World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers? Sandy Koufax? Duke Snider? Clayton Kershaw? Orel Hershiser?
Nope. Jim Gilliam.
Who had a 28 year career with the Dodgers? Walt Alston? Tommy Lasorda?
Nope. Jim Gilliam.
Whose uniform number (#19) was retired by the Dodgers and did not belong to a member of the hall of fame inductee?
Right, Jim Gilliam.
Long time manager Walt Alston described one his favorite players…..”He didn’t hit with power, he had no arm, and he couldn’t run. But he did the little things to win ballgames. He never griped or complained. He was one of the most unselfish ballplayers I know”.
I remember Jim Gilliam. In 1962 I was 9 years old, and it was a pretty important year for the Dodgers. Great pitching and great hitting and they fought the Giants to the very end of the season; losing in a 3 game playoff….I think Willie Mays was instrumental in the Giants victory somehow. I remember watching that on TV…
But the most exciting part of the 1962 season was the incredible base-stealing of Maury Wills. Maury broke the Major League record that year with 104 stolen bases…an epic feat. And although it was an incredible accomplishment over a long season, what I also remember is Vin Scully, the Dodger announcer giving credit day after day to the guy who hit behind (after) Maury. You see for Maury to have a chance to steal second base, the next batter had to be willing to take a lot of pitches…giving Maury a chance to run. The next batter had to be willing to sacrifice going after the first or second pitch or third pitch, in order to allow Maury an opportunity to steal.
That batter was Jim Gilliam.
I doubt much of the baseball world, or the world in general will remember Jim Gilliam.
The fact the Dodgers retired his number, only 2 days after his death in 1978, probably said it all.
But Jim Murray, famous LA Times sports columnist probably said it best…
“I guess my all-time favorite athlete was Jim Gilliam. He always thought he was lucky to be a Dodger. I always thought it was the other way around.”