Few men Luis Aparicio’s size have starred at the big league level. Even fewer have controlled the diamond like the slick-fielding Venezuelan shortstop.
Luis Ernesto Aparicio was born April 29, 1934, in Maracaibo, Venezuela. Signed as an amateur free agent by the White Sox at the age of 19, Aparicio spent two years in the minors before making his major league debut on April 17, 1956.
The 5-foot-9, 160-pound Aparicio quickly made a name for himself as the starting shortstop, leading the league with 21 stolen bases and 14 sacrifice hits in his first season. His efforts earned him the American League Rookie of the Year Award.
It marked the first of nine straight seasons where Aparicio led the American League in stolen bases. No other player has ever led his league in steals more than six years in a row.
In 1959, “Little Louie” propelled the White Sox to the World Series with stellar regular season numbers, scoring 98 runs while stealing 56 bases – finishing second that year in AL MVP voting. Although his team lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Fall Classic, Aparicio batted .308 with eight hits.
Aparicio led AL shortstops in fielding percentage each year from 1959-66 and racked up nine Gold Glove Awards over the span of his career.
"He's the best I've ever seen,” former White Sox owner and future Hall of Famer Bill Veeck said in 1959. “He makes plays which I know can't possibly be made, yet he makes them almost every day.”
The White Sox traded Aparicio to the Baltimore Orioles on Jan. 14, 1963. In his five years with the Orioles, he led the AL in stolen bases twice. Aparicio also made his second World Series appearance in 1966. This time, his Orioles swept the Dodgers to win it all.
Aparicio was traded back to the White Sox after the 1967 season, and he spent three more years with Chicago before moving to the Boston Red Sox. Aparicio spent his last three seasons in the major leagues in Boston.
Aparicio played his final game on Sept. 28, 1973 at the age of 40 and officially retired after he was released by the Red Sox in March of 1974. At the time of his retirement, he held the record for shortstops in games played, double plays turned and assists. He finished his career with 2,677 hits and 506 stolen bases. He was named to 13 All-Star Games.
In 1984, Aparicio was inducted into the Hall of Fame – becoming the first Venezuela native to earn enshrinement in Cooperstown.