Before the arrival of such power hitting shortstops such as Ernie Banks, Cal Ripken, Alex Rodriguez, etcetera, the position was played by those who contributed solid fundamental offense, outstanding defense and many intangible things that never appear in a box score. The epitome of such a shortstop was Luis Aparicio, who never played a single inning at any other position over an eighteen year career, and whose slick fielding and base stealing abilities were big keys to team and personal success.
Born in Venezuela, Aparicio became the Chicago White Sox starting shortstop as a rookie in 1956, replacing another Venezuelan, Chico Carrasquel. Heeding advice to shorten his stance at the plate, and play deeper defensively to expand his range and take advantage of his strong throwing arm, Luis justified Chicago's faith in him by winning Rookie of the Year in 1956 and led the American League (AL) with twenty-one stolen bases. For the rest of the 50's and early 60's he anchored the White Sox infield with second baseman Nellie Fox, and they drove Chicago's opponents crazy offensively as well. Their defensive prowess pulled Chicago out of many a jam and killed many rallies, while at the plate the formed a deadly hit and run duo at the top of the lineup. It all came together for the White Sox in 1959 when the "Go Go Sox" scampered to AL pennant and Aparicio finished second in the Most Valuable Player voting to Fox. "What is the top requirement for a second baseman? A fine shortstop. I am fortunate in having the greatest shortstop in baseball, Luis Aparicio", said Fox in 1960.
For eight consecutive seasons from 1959-1966 Aparicio led all AL shortstops in fielding percentage, and during his career he won nine Gold Gloves. "He's the best I've ever seen. He makes plays which I know can't possibly be made, yet he makes them almost every day", boasted White Sox Owner Bill Veeck in 1959. On the bases, Luis topped the American League for nine straight years (1956-64), swiping more than fifty three straight years (1959-61) and a career high fifty-seven in 1964. In 1963 he was traded to the Baltimore and helped lead the Orioles to the AL pennant and a World Series sweep of the Dodgers in 1966. He returned to the White Sox in 1968, and in 1970, at the age of thirty-six, hit .300 for the only time in his career (.313). In that same year he played his 2,219th career game at shortstop to break the record of White Sox great Luke Appling. He finished playing in 1973 as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
During his MLB tenure Aparicio led American League shortstops twice in double plays and total chances per game, four times in putouts, seven times in assists and eight times in fielding. He holds all time marks for games played (2581) and assists (8016), and hold AL records for putouts (4548) and total chances (12,564). Although his lifetime batting average is just .262, he totaled 2677 hits and had 506 career stolen bases. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984.