Keeping Maury Island Maury

There are a number of good, and possibly excellent reasons, to name the island after Maury Wills.

  • Thursday, March 25, 2021 5:21pm
  • Opinion
Michael Shook

Michael Shook

The name for Maury Island is back in the mix. What shall it be?

Retain the original nomenclature conferred to honor William Lewis Maury, at the time of the naming an officer in the Navy of the United States, and a navigator and cartographer of excellent repute, but who later resigned and joined the Confederate Navy?

Or do we search for someone or something else as a better name for our bit of glacial detritus, and change the name to honor someone whose reputation, and actions are perhaps more worthy of having an island named for him, or for her? I find this a not unreasonable notion.

Well then, if we’re going to do it — change the name, that is — my bid is to name it after the baseball player Maury Wills.

Yes, I’m serious. There are a number of at least good, and possibly excellent reasons to name it after Maury. Let’s examine some of them.

First of all, he was a key member of the great Los Angeles Dodger teams of the late 1950s to mid-1960s that won three World Series. In 1962, he broke Ty Cobb’s 1915 record for stolen bases in a season, getting caught a mere 13 times (a ration of 8 successes to one put-out!) while racking up 104 bases to Cobb’s 96.

Bonus: Cobb, a native Georgian, was a notorious racist, so it is poetic justice that his record was broken by a Black player.

That same year, he was named MVP of the National League, hitting .299, with 10 triples (arguably more difficult to hit than a home run), and a whopping 179 singles. Maury won two Gold Gloves, was an All-Star five times and was voted the first MVP of the All-Star game, also in 1962.

Extra bonus: Maury has local ties. He was the manager of the Seattle Mariners for parts of two seasons, in 1980-81. He finished with a record of 26-56, right in keeping with the M’s standard of utter futility (save for the Gillick/Pinella years – I shed a tear for such days). He’s one of us! A true Mariners standard-bearer.

Extra extra bonus: We are an island known for being full of artists, and Maury, too, was an artist! And not just of the stolen base. He played banjo, guitar, and ukulele well enough to enjoy kudos from trumpeter Charlie Teagarden, who awarded him a lifetime membership in the musician’s union. But that’s not all — he could sing as well. Maury sang regularly at nightclubs during the off-season and cut two record albums, one as a vocalist with Lionel Hampton. Not bad company.

Extra extra extra bonus: He was addicted to alcohol and cocaine, but got clean in 1989. Redemption! Few things are more American than the fallen hero’s redemption. If it had been a movie, he’d have won an Oscar.

Extra extra extra extra bonus: He’s still alive. Someone (the county? The Mariners? Someone with cash to burn – I’m looking at you, Jeff Bezos) could fly him out here to break a bottle of champagne at Portage, maybe the lighthouse, or Dockton Forest. Or he could just make a speech at the overlook at Maury Island Marine Park.

I don’t know which he’d prefer, but the point is, here’s a guy with all kinds of heroic deeds to his credit, and some plain old regular deeds, too, and his name is Maury. We wouldn’t have to change any signs or maps. But we could revel in our new (old) name, and think fondly of the Dodgers, of America’s great game of baseball, and of how swell it is to live here while doing so.

P.S.: absolutely none of this has to do with the fact that I’m a life-long Dodger fan (and a sort of bigamist — I love the miserable Mariners, too). I am looking out solely for the best interests of Maury Island, the place I call home, the place for people just a bit too off-kilter even for Vashon Island.

Michael Shook retired from Union carpentry (LU 470/129), and now works his fields on Maury Island.

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