Jim Gilliam spent his entire Major League career as a Dodger. He was a consummate professional, a student of the game, a teacher and coach. Gilliam was immensely versatile on the field and exhibited an intelligent approach to the game that won plaudits from everyone. It's doubtful there was ever any other Dodger who was a smarter player.
Walter Alston once said this of Gilliam:
“He gets on base. He can punch the ball on the hit and run. He steals and never throws to the wrong base. He knows how to get a walk. He has all the little things that go to make up a good ballclub….I don’t think he’s ever been late a day in his life.”Former teammate Ron Fairly said this of him:
“Junior played to win ballgames,” Fairly said. “He didn’t care who was the player who won the game so long as the Dodgers won the game. Jim didn’t worry about personal things like that.”An example of Gilliam's willingness to sacrafice his statistics for a win is best told by Gilliam himself.
“I try to help him (Maury Wills) …Lots of times there are pitches I could swing at, but I see Maury out of the corner of my eye and take the pitch if I think he’s going to get the base. Or else I’ll take a strike, even two strikes to give him a chance to steal it. If it looks like he could be caught, I’ll hit at the pitch. Maybe I’ll punch it through and Maury’ll be able to make it to third. Or else I’ll foul it off and he’s not out.Jim Gilliam retired as a player-coach for the Dodgers after the 1966 season, and immediately started coaching fulltime for the team. He had hoped that one day he would become a manager in the Major Leagues, but time ran out. Late in the 1978 season he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, fell into a coma and died two days before the World Series matchup between the Dodgers and Yankees. Before Game 1 of that series, the Dodgers retired his uniform number - #19. He remains the only Dodger player to have his numbered retired by the team who is not a member of the Hall of Fame.
Los Angeles Times sports columnist Jim Murray wrote this in his tribute to Jim Gilliam.
“I guess my all-time favorite athlete was Jim Gilliam. He always thought he was lucky to be a Dodger.Below are complete scans of every page from Jim Gilliam's 1961 Union Oil Dodger Family Booklet. Click any pic to embiggen. BTW, if you want to find out more about Gilliam I suggest reading his SABR biography. It is very thorough. Go here for that.
I thought it was the other way around.”
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