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Thursday, June 25, 2009
Aparicio set the shortstop standard

By Bruce Levine

I asked Ozzie Guillen who was the greatest Venezuelan shortstop in baseball history.

"Wow! I'm going to get in trouble," Guillen said. "Luis [Aparicio], pretty soon, will be the second best shortstop from Venezuela when [Omar] Vizquel goes into the Hall of Fame."

Guillen went on to praise Aparicio as a pioneer for all of Latin American baseball and he said he hopes that the Hall of Famer will get more involved with the present team and organization in the future.

Personally, having seen both Aparicio and Vizquel play their entire careers, my choice would be "Little Louie." Vizquel is a wonderful player and his fielding percentage is 10 points higher than Aparicio's, but for me, Aparicio was the best defensive shortstop ever. Aparicio covered more ground and had a stronger arm than any of the other great shortstops in modern times, including Ozzie Smith, Derek Jeter and Vizquel.

I asked Aparicio, who was at the ballpark Thursday for a special commemoration of the 1959 American League Championship White Sox team, who was the better shortstop.

"I can't compare myself to nobody," Aparicio told me. "Everyone has his own personality and his own game. My game was running and defense. Vizquel has got the same in his game, and he's played longer than me. I'll tell you, he has my vote for the Hall of Fame."

Aparicio, of course, is being gracious. The former White Sox star was more than just a classic shortstop. He started a trend in baseball of base stealers that had been missing in the game since the dead ball era, which was from 1900-1921. Teams like the White Sox and Dodgers picked up on the philosophy of pitching, defense and speed as ways to compete with the other teams, which had more power in their lineups. Both of those franchises were able to use the philosophy of pitching, defense and speed from the mid-1950s all the way into the 1970s as a way of staying in the top echelon of teams.

Comparing eras and great players is an impossible task. However, saying that Luis Aparicio was the best ever to play shortstop isn't really a stretch.