Tuesday, January 06, 2009

#247 Wally Moon

moon by you.
At long last, after more than a year of blogging, I get to discuss Wally Moon's unibrow. Actually, back up: Wally Moon's Unibrow. It deserves to be capitalized. It is the Alpha and the Omega of Unibrows, the One that all other singular eyebrows aspire to be. (Sorry, Frank Zupo; your sixteen-game career dims the glory of your admittedly impressive appearance.)

Wally Moon was more than just an eyebrow; he was one heck of a hitter. The Arkansas boy was a fine scholar-athlete: an All-Southwest Conference player at Texas A & M University, who later earned his Master's degree in education. He signed with the Cardinals in 1950, and played a limited minor league slate for two seasons while continuing his studies.

According to legend, Wally defied team management by reporting to major league camp in the spring of 1954, rather than minor league camp. He was permitted to stay, and replaced veteran Enos Slaughter in the St. Louis outfield. On Opening Day, the newcomer silence chants of "We Want Slaughter!" by socking a home run in his first at-bat. Moon didn't stop there, setting several offensive marks that would prove to be career highs: 106 runs, 193 hits, 29 doubles, 18 stolen bases. He hit .305 with 12 home runs and 76 RBI, and easily won N. L. Rookie of the Year honors over such stiff competition as Ernie Banks and Hank Aaron.

The young slugger showed his consistency by batting between .295 and .298 and scoring exactly 86 runs in each season from 1955-1957. He continued to hit for power, peaking with 24 homers in 1957, his first All-Star campaign. Moon slumped badly in 1958, playing only 108 games and chalking up a weak .238 average. In December, the Cards traded him to Los Angeles for future journeyman Gino Cimoli, a hasty move.

With an assist from ex-teammate Stan Musial, Wally adjusted quite well to the cavernous Los Angeles Coliseum. In 1959, he altered his swing to take advantage of the 251-foot left field line and posted double-digit doubles, triples (a league-leading 11), home runs, and steals for the second time in his career. His average jumped back up to .302, and the second-time All-Star finished fourth in an MVP race won by Chicago's Ernie Banks. Moon got the last laugh, as his Dodgers took the N. L. pennant and won the World Series. In postseason play, the left fielder hit .261 against the White Sox with a home run.

For an encore, Wally hit .299 in 1960 and won a Gold Glove; he was noted for his strong throwing arm. But the next year may have been his best as a hitter. He reached career highs in RBI (88), walks (89), batting average (.328), and on-base percentage (.434 - tops in the league). He ended up thirteenth in MVP voting, though winner Frank Robinson was way ahead of the pack. He also scored the last run ever at the Coliseum.

Perhaps it's only coincidence, but Moon declined after the Dodgers moved into their new stadium in 1962. He didn't top 343 at-bats in any of his four remaining seasons, and couldn't surpass a .262 average. He didn't even play in the 1963 World Series, won by L.A. His final two games were as a pinch-hitter in the 1965 World Series. He was retired in both at-bats, but Sandy Koufax's Game Seven shutout allowed Wally to end his career as a two-time champion. He also finished as a .289 career hitter with a strong .816 on base-plus-slugging average, due largely to a great 1.09 walk-to-strikeout ratio.

Wally coached with the expansion Padres club in 1969, and also served as athletic director and baseball coach at John Brown University in Alabama. In the late 1970s, he owned the Dodgers' minor-league team in San Antonio. He came back to coaching in 1986 with the AAA Springfield Cardinals, managed the Carolina League's Prince William Yankees the following year, and concluded his baseball career as a manager and special hitting instructor in the Orioles organization. In 1990 he guided the Frederick Keys to a Carolina League championship in their second year of existence. Since 1996, he and wife Bettye have been enjoying retirement in the Bryan-College Station area of Texas. You can get your Wally-related fix at his official website.

Fun fact: On April 23, 1954, Wally went 5-for-5 against the Milwaukee Braves. He walked once, tripled once, and stole a base. He also scored two runs in a 7-5 win for the Cardinals. Not bad for a guy who had been in the majors for all of ten days!
moonb by you.


  1. i almost kept this card. just for this write up, i'm glad i sent it...

  2. Thanks Max! It's found a good home for certain. There's so little information on some of these players (see Ron Brand below), that it's always a treat to find a website that's got a personal connection to a player, as is the case for Wally Moon and Frank Thomas.

  3. You want to see some potential baseball players just go to any of the Gold's gyms in College Station

  4. Great article! Wally's cousin lived in my hometown of Borger Texas in the 50s and 60s. He came to visit a couple times. What a thrill it was to meet a real live major leaguer in a little town in the Texas panhandle. Thanks for the updates. Small minor correction, John Brown University is in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, near Fort Smith. Keep up the good work!

  5. I just reconnected with Wally after many, many years. Wally coached the 1951 Freshmen baseball team at Texas A&M. Coming from a small town I din't know any better so I went our for the team. Opening day, and the rest of the season, I was Wally's left fielder batting lead off and hit a home run my first time at bat. He did the same thing a few years later with the Cardinals (slightly Bigger League I conceded as I kidded him). What a great guy. Own his rookie card.
    Buck Jackson Pt Lavaca, TX