Posts Tagged ‘Wally Moon’

Rest in Peace, Wally Moon, Now Dead at 87

February 12, 2018

Former Cardinal and Dodger Wally Moon Addressed the Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR on Oct. 11, 2011. A link to that article is included at the end of this featured story from the LA Times of his passing.

Thanks to Sam Quintero for directing our attention to this excellent piece on Wally Moon’s passing by Steve Marble @ LA

WALLY MOON, 1930 – 2018

Slugger helped Dodgers to three World Series

Launched towering ‘Moon shots’

By Steve Marble

Wally Moon, the wiry outfielder with the old-school crew cut who helped take the Dodgers to the World Series three times and became a crowd favorite for his towering “Moon shots,” has died.

Moon, who became part of the Dodgers’ lineup shortly after the team moved west from Brooklyn, died Friday in Bryan, Texas. He was 87.

A lefty who had proved to be a steady hitter with decent power while with the St. Louis Cardinals, Moon was nonetheless coming off a down year when he was traded to the Dodgers in 1959. The Cardinals even tossed in a pitcher to make the deal work. For the Dodgers, coming off a seventh-place finish, it seemed an odd way to rebuild.

And there was the ballpark where the Dodgers then played: the cavernous Coliseum, a graveyard for left-handed batters.

It was a staggering 440 feet to the right-field fence. By contrast, the left-field bleachers were a friendly 251 feet from home plate — a chip shot for a decent player. To take advantage of the odd dimensions, the Dodgers stacked their lineup with righties. “I really wasn’t sure how much I was going to get to play,” Moon told The Times in 2008.

After consulting with former teammate Stan Musial, generally regarded as one of the finest hitters in the game, Moon decided to adjust his swing and his stance at the plate so that he could drive the ball to left field. And to get it over the 42-foot screen that hung in front of the left-field bleachers, he learned to uppercut the ball.

The results were impressive. Hitting in a lineup with fearsome players such as Duke Snider, Gil Hodges and John Roseboro, Moon batted .302 and swatted 19 home runs, nine of them to left field. The most dramatic was a towering ninth-inning “Moon shot” to left field in a 2-2 game against the San Francisco Giants in 1959.

The walk-off home run helped carry the team to the World Series, where they knocked off the Chicago White Sox to win it all.

“It was unforgettable,” Moon said decades later. “I can still hear it, still feel it, still see it all these years.”

Wallace Wade Moon was born April 3, 1930, in Bay, Ark., a speck of a town surrounded by cotton fields. Moon said his father dropped out of school in eighth grade, and regretted the decision the rest of his life. Moon was raised with the expectation that he would go to college. When he graduated from high school and was offered a baseball contract, his father persuaded him to turn it down.

After earning a degree in education from Texas A&M, Moon finally signed with the Cardinals but with the stipulation that he would play only during the summer until he finished his master’s degree. The money he made playing part time was set aside so that his younger sister could also go to college.

In 1954, Moon was rushed to the major leagues. He later calculated that he had played all of 17 games in the year before his major league debut and felt overwhelmed when the Cardinals traded away fan favorite Enos Slaughter to clear a spot in the lineup for him.

But hitting a home run in his first at-bat helped ease the jitters, and he went on to hit .304 on the year with 76 RBIs, enough to earn him National League rookie of the year honors. He spent five seasons in St. Louis before he was shipped to the Dodgers in exchange for Gino Cimoli, who — like Moon — was coming off a disappointing season.

It was a golden era for the Dodgers. After winning the World Series in 1955, the team repeated as major league champs in 1959, 1963 and 1965, riding the arms of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, the bat of Tommy Davis and the base-running prowess of Maury Wills. The team moved into the newly built Dodger Stadium in 1962. But as the years went by, Moon was slowly pushed out of the starting lineup.

In 1965, he called it quits, ending a 12-year career during which he hit 142 home runs and was named to the all-star team three times. His last game in uniform was against the Minnesota Twins in Game 7 of the 1965 World Series. He never got off the bench.

By the end of the year, he’d sold his house in Encino and moved back to Arkansas with his wife and five children.

“The children were growing up, drugs were starting to come on the scene and I decided I didn’t want to raise my family in Southern California,” he explained to the Baltimore Sun in 1990. “My wife and I are both small-town people at heart.”

Moon moved the family to Siloam Springs, Ark., where the plains meet the Ozark Mountains. He took a job as the athletic director and baseball coach at John Brown University, a small private Christian college where he worked and taught for 15 years, aside from one year when he took a leave of absence to take over as the batting coach for the San Diego Padres. He later became manager and an owner of the San Antonio Dodgers minor league team before retiring and moving to Bryan, Texas. In 2010 his autobiography, “Moon Shots: Reflections on a Baseball Life,” was published.

In 2008, when the Dodgers played an exhibition game against Boston in the Coliseum, Moon was invited back to a field where he had created so many memories.

Before the game, he was playfully asked whether he wanted to take batting practice with the team to see if he could launch one last “Moon shot.”

He chuckled. “I haven’t picked up a bat in 30 years, but I’ll take a shot at it. I still play a lot of golf, so I might be able to get it there.”

Moon’s wife, Bettye, died in 2016. He is survived by five children and seven grandchildren.

By Steve Marble, LA


Also, here’s a link to a column we did for The Pecan Park Eagle back 2011 about Wally Moon’s appearance at a Larry Dierker SABR Chapter meeting in Houston:



Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

Moon Shots

November 4, 2011

former Cardinal and Dodger Wally Moon Addresses the Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR on Oct. 11, 2011.

The distance was short – but the fence was so high,

When Wally’s bat kissed them – batted balls said goodbye,

They just called ’em “Moon Shots” – in the sweet bye and bye,

As homers flew fast – from their Coliseum lie.

It was an interesting era, to say the least. After the Brooklyn baseball team moved to the west coast in 1958 and reincarnated themselves as the Los Angeles Dodgers, they played five seasons (1958-1962) in the Los Angeles Coliseum on a playing field that had been configured for track in the 1932 Olympics and then for football, but not for baseball. As a result, the Dodgers ended up with left field distance that ridiculously short and only helped some by the inclusion of a super high net fence that kept most long drives in play and away from the cheap homers they soon would otherwise become.

Everything about that little arrangement began to chance once the Dodgers acquired a young outfielder named Wally Moon from the Cardinals after the 1958 season. The left-handed hitting Moon remembered how he used to wat crumpled tin Pet Milk cans with a stick to any direction he wanted as a kid back in Bay, Arkansas and he was able to convert that neuromuscular memory into the art of hitting a pitched baseball on a high opposite field arch to left field that often enough cleared the high protective protective net. These homers came to be named for Wally Moon as his “moon shots.” Like a golfer chipping out of the sand and up an embankment, Wally Moon had landed in LA in 1959 in time to become the “Master of the Moon Shot” just as the NASA space race with the USSR was really heating up.

It didn’t hurt that much of the music from that time enhanced public consciousness of the “moon shot” reference. One of the most popular songs from that 1950s era was “How High The Moon” by Les Paul and Mary Ford. I can still hear that song playing on the PA system at the Coliseum as Wally Moon rounds the bases on sauntering heels after another moon shot. “Somewhere there’s music, etc., etc. … How high the moon?”

The Moon got pretty high on success in LA. He played for three World Series championship clubs as a Dodger in 1959, 1963, and 1965, a final year which also turned out to be his last season as an active player in professional baseball. Now, at age 81, a still healthy and vibrantly alive Wally Moon has written and published his own autobiographical memoir with Tim Gregg entitled “Moon Shots: Reflections on a Baseball Life.”

Wally Moon attended our early October meeting of the Larry Dierker Chapter of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research, to discuss his new book and just talk about his priceless lifetime of observations on the game of baseball. He came, and he performed, as a gentleman from the old school – one who valued family, fortitude, commitment, dedication, discipline, honesty, humility, faith, hope, love, and loyalty – and all those other good bonding values and personal traits that shape performance in any field – and he took those things and allowed them to speak out in baseball and his personal life through his actions as the answer to the question – “Who is this guy Wally Moon?”

I’m so grateful that I got to hear Wally speak at that early October meeting because it shaped how I heard his words from the book in my own mind as I read it. I bought the book from Wally that night and he signed it to me with these words:

“To: Bill – a good baseball fan. Enjoy this book and my best wishes to you. – Wally Moon 10-11-11.”

The book I read spoke to me in the same down-to-earth, grounded, but intelligent voice I heard that recent October night in his talk for and with the members of SABR.

Wally Moon was one of my teenage idols as a ballplayer. How could he miss with guys like me? He came up in 1954 with the Cardinals as an outfielder and hit .304 for the St. Louis Cardinals, playing well enough to be named the National League Rookie of the Year. He had played for Texas A&M and gotten his college degree before reaching the big leagues, and that was a big deal to me and my parents, even back then. The game of baseball was not a sport to rob us young guys of our education, if one had both the ability and motivation to get through school – and, I must add, a few of those values and traits that Wally had acquired from his family and DNA. The guy was a role model for the ages back then – and he still is today.

After five seasons with the Cardinals (1954-1958), Wally Moon went to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a trade for Dodger outfielder Gino Cimoli. He didn’t like it much, but he adapted and did well overall over the course of seven seasons (1959-1965) on the coast. Wally Moon also played some first base with the Dodgers, ending his career with a batting average of .289 and 142 total home runs.

Moon Shots is well-written and it covers a lot of detail from Wally’s personal and baseball life. It doesn’t contain the morality crisis that many players face and have to either deal with or avoid in their own stories because Wally Moon’s value system and personal trait profile exists as the polar opposite of that old left field wall in the LA Coliseum. Wally’s character runs long, wide, and deep. He never really had to choose between right and wrong because his sense of the “right thing” is simply so much stronger than anything else out there that tries to oppose it. And I don’t mean that Wally comes across as a “Mr. Goody Two Shoes” either, I mean he is just one of those truly rare, but authentic for-real “good guys.” He doesn’t try to tell other people how to live, but he values the idea that all people need to take correct responsibility for their own actions.Whether they do, or not, is another matter. Wally Moon understands that we all live in an imperfect world that is sometimes unfair.

If we only had a world of more Wally Moons, what a wonderful world it would be. – Add those lyrics to your famous song, Satchmo. Wally Moon deserves the well-deserved mention.

If you haven’t read the book, get your own copy of Moon Shots and decide for yourself. For more information, check it out at Wally’s website.