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Wally Moon

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Wallace Wade Moon

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[edit] Biographical Information

Wallace Wade "Wally" Moon had a 12-year career in the National League, with a good average, better than average walks, and better than average power. Overall, he hit .289 with 142 home runs.

Moon was born in Arkansas in 1930, and was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1950, receiving a $6,000 signing bonus. He attended Texas A&M University, studying education, and eventually earned a master's degree there. Moon lettered for the Aggie baseball team in 1949 and 1950. He was an All-Southwest Conference selection. Because of his studies, he appeared in only 82 games for the Omaha Cardinals in 1950 and 16 in 1951. He did have an excellent season for the Rochester Red Wings in 1953, when he hit .307 with 12 homers and 61 RBIs in 131 hits.

He came to the big leagues in 1954, playing as a regular. The story is that he mistakenly showed up at the major league camp in spring training instead of the minor league camp, and the Cardinals kept him; in fact he had been playing winter ball in Venezuela and his team, Pastora de Occidente made it to the 1954 Caribbean Series finals. As the minor league camp was about to wind up, General Manager Dick Meyer gave him the option of going straight to the major league camp, although manager Eddie Stanky was not aware of the deal. For his part, he had told himself that either he won a job with the Cardinals or he would quit, returning to Arkansas with his wife and children to take up a teaching job that was offered him. But he impressed enough in spring training that not only did he make the team, but the Cardinals decided to trade veteran Enos Slaughter and make him the starter in right field.

That trade was very unpopular with the team's fans, and Wally was booed when he took part in the pre-Opening Day parade, and again when he stepped up to bat in the 1st inning against Paul Minner of the Chicago Cubs on April 13th. He shut down the cries of "We want Enos!" by sending Minner's third pitch over right field pavilion at Sportsman's Park for a home run. He was only the second player for the Cardinals to homer in his first big league at-bat, after Eddie Morgan in 1936. He continued to hit well in the early going with five-hit games on April 23rd and May 12th, and a game in which he stole four bases on May 25th. The April 23rd game was against the Milwaukee Braves and is remembered for being the one in which fellow rookie Hank Aaron hit his first major league home run. Moon won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1954, beating out another Aaron, who hit .280 in 122 games, as well as Ernie Banks of the Cubs. Moon hit .304 with 29 doubles and 12 home runs, and was fourth in the National League with 9 triples. The 1954 Cardinals outfield consisted of Moon, Stan Musial, and Rip Repulski.

During the next three years, 1955-1957, Moon hit around .295 each year, with moderate power. He had 11 triples and 80 walks in 1956, and a high of 24 home runs in 1957. He was named to the All-Star team in 1957. After slumping to a .238 average in 1958, he was traded with Phil Paine to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Gino Cimoli.

1959 was the Dodgers' second year in Los Angeles, and they won the World Series that year. Moon was a key regular, hitting .302 with 19 home runs and a league-leading 11 triples. Moon became a fan favorite in Los Angeles for his ability, hitting from the left side, to launch high fly-ball home runs to left field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The venerable stadium was oddly configured for baseball. His popular "Moon Shots" cleared the 40-foot-high screen meant to compensate for the short distance, just 250 feet down the line. In the World Series against the Chicago White Sox, he was the #3 hitter in the lineup, hitting in front of the cleanup hitter, who was either Duke Snider or Norm Larker, depending on the game. Moon was 4th in the MVP voting that year and was on the All-Star team again. He was the starting left fielder, with Willie Mays in center and Hank Aaron in right, in both the First and Second All-Star Games played that year.

He continued to hit well in 1960, with a .299 average, and won a Gold Glove. Then in 1961, he hit a peak with a .328 average. The average was fourth in the NL, and with the 89 walks he drew, he was # 1 in the league in on-base percentage.

He declined in 1962-1965, as his average and power dropped. It wasn't easy hitting in Dodger Stadium, and he was getting older. However, he was still a participant on the teams that won the World Series in 1963 and 1965. He didn't appear in the 1963 Series, in spite of being playing 122 games that year, and had two at-bats, both as a pinch-hitter, in the 1965 Series, which ended his major league career at age 35.

The similarity scores method shows the most similar player to Moon as Hank Bauer, but Bauer had a lower average, fewer walks, and no Gold Glove, so it's easy to conclude that Moon may have been a bit better.

After his playing career ended, Wally Moon was a coach with the expansion San Diego Padres in 1969. He also coached at John Brown University and was minor league hitting coordinator for the Baltimore Orioles. He was named as a coach for the Louisville Redbirds on June 27, 1986.

As of 2004, he lived in Texas.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 1954 NL Rookie of the Year Award
  • 2-time NL All-Star (1957 & 1959)
  • NL Gold Glove Winner (1960/LF)
  • NL On-Base Percentage Leader (1961)
  • NL Triples Leader (1959)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1957)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (1954)
  • Won three World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers (1959, 1963 & 1965) (he did not play in the 1963 World Series)

NL Rookie of the Year
1953 1954 1955
Jim Gilliam Wally Moon Bill Virdon

[edit] Year-By-Year Minor League Managerial Record

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1987 Prince William Yankees Carolina League 66-74 5th (t) New York Yankees
1988 Prince William Yankees Carolina League New York Yankees replaced by Gene Tenace on June 28
1990 Frederick Keys Carolina League 74-62 3rd Baltimore Orioles League Champs
1991 Frederick Keys Carolina League 58-82 7th Baltimore Orioles

[edit] Further Reading

  • Wally Moon and Tom Gregg: Moon Shots: Reflections on a Baseball Life, Moon Publishing, San Antonio, TX, 2010. ISBN 978-0984995905
  • Mark Randall: "Giving Up the Stars and Reaching for the Moon: The Rookie Debut of Wally Moon", The Baseball Research Journal, Vol. 43, number 2, Fall 2014, pp. 55-62.

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