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Wally Moon

Wally Moon

Position(s):
CF, LF, OF, 1B, RF
Born:
April 3, 1930
Bats:
Left
Throws:
Right
Height:
6'
Weight:
169 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-13-1954 with SLN
Allstar Selections:
1954 ROOK, 1960 GG

"Moon shots" were what they called the home runs that lefthanded-batting Wally Moon golfed over the 42-foot wall a mere 250 feet down the Los Angeles Coliseum's left field line with his inside-out swing. Though he didn't hit many of them, the newly arrived Moon hit them early in 1959, and his ingenuity seemed to capture the spirit of the ragtag bunch that took the Dodgers from seventh place to the World Championship. Appropriately, he scored the last run ever in the Coliseum.

Moon homered in his first major league at-bat, as a Cardinal in 1954, en route to batting .304 and winning the Rookie of the Year award over Hank Aaron. He peaked with 24 HR in 1957, but was traded to the Dodgers after a .238 showing in 1958. A fine defensive outfielder, he won a Gold Glove in 1960.

Biography:
Wallace Wade Moon, known popularly as Wally Moon, (born April 3, 1930, in Bay, Arkansas) is a former Major League Baseball outfielder. Moon played his 12-year career in the National League for the St. Louis Cardinals (1954–1958) and Los Angeles Dodgers (1959–1965). He batted left-handed and threw right-handed.

Moon was named after Wallace Wade, the former college football coach of the Alabama and Duke. From a family of educators, he earned a master's degree in administrative education from Texas A&M University in College Station while he was still in the minor leagues.[1] He coached from 1953-1954 at Lake City, also in Craighead County. In the spring of 1954 the Cardinals told Moon to report to their minor league spring training camp. He ignored the order and reported instead to St. Petersburg with the Cardinals. He said that he would make the team or quit baseball. They let him stay, and by the end of the spring training he replaced Enos Slaughter in the outfield.

Moon made his majors debut on April 13, 1954. To make room for him in the roster, St. Louis sent the veteran Enos Slaughter to the Yankees. Moon responded for good. In his first at-bat, despite chants of "We want Slaughter", he belted a home run against the Cubs; in the same game Tom Alston became the first African American to play for the Cardinals. Moon finished with a .304 batting average, 12 home runs, 76 RBI, and career-high numbers in runs (106), hits (193), doubles (29), and stolen bases (18) in 151 games. He earned both the MLB Rookie of the Year and The Sporting News Rookie of the Year honors. Almost a unanimous vote, Moon won easily over rookies Ernie Banks, Gene Conley and Hank Aaron.

A fine left fielder with a good arm, Moon also played right field and center as well as the first base. He was a Gold Glove Award winner in 1960 as he made the All--Star team in 1957 and 1959. Twice in his career, Moon compiled double figures in doubles, triples, home runs and stolen bases: 22, 11, 16, 12 in 1956, and 26, 11, 19, 15 in 1959, his first year with the Dodgers.

The Dodgers traded for Moon by sending outfielder Gino Cimoli, both of whom were coming off years in which they batted below .250; the Cardinals also added pitcher Phil Paine, who did not end up playing for the Dodgers. Moon was initially concerned about batting for the Dodgers, who then played in the converted L. A. Coliseum: right field was 440 feet away, making it difficult for a left-handed batter like Moon. However, the left-field seats were only 251 feet away, protected by a 42-foot high screen. After consulting with friend and mentor Stan Musial, Moon adjusting his batting to emphasize hitting to left. The results were very successful. In his first season with the Dodgers, he took his team from seventh place to the World Championship, providing support in the line-up for Duke Snider, Gil Hodges and Don Demeter. He gained quick public acclaim in 1959 for the "Moon shots" that he hit over the high left field screen.  Moon hit a home run in the sixth and final game of that World Series, which the Dodgers won over the Chicago White Sox. He also caught Luis Aparicio's fly ball for the final out of the Series.

Beside this, he hit a career-high 24 homers in 1957. Moon enjoyed another good season in 1961, batting .328 with 17 home runs and 88 RBI.

A career .289 hitter, Moon also hit 142 home runs with 661 RBI in 1457 games. He had tremendous discipline at the plate, compiling a remarkable 1.90 walk-to-strikeout ratio (644-to-591), with a .371 on base percentage and a .445 slugging average for a combined .816 OPS. Appropriately, he scored the last run ever in the Coliseum.

After playing in the majors, Moon went on to become athletic director and baseball coach at John Brown University, and a coach and minor league manager and owner of the San Antonio Dodgers for four years beginning in the late 1970s. Moon moved to Bryan, Texas, where he has lived for over 25 years. He retired in 1998. He is married to Bettye and has five children and seven grandchildren.

Moon is featured on many websites featuring baseball cards, as he sported a prominent unibrow.

A Jan. 27, 1960 episode of the popular TV western, Wagon Train, features Wally Moon in a brief role. The end credits include: "And Introducing Wally Moon as Sheriff Kelleher." There is no baseball tie-in with his character, but the sheriff does catch a bullet during a shoot-out with Tommy Sands' bad guy. A rerun of the program aired on the Encore Westerns Channel, May 12, 2011.

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