Today would have been Wally Moon’s 88th birthday; he passed away earlier this year, on February 9th. Wallace Wade Moon was born in Bay, Arkansas, on April 3, 1930, and made his MLB debut with the St. Louis Cardinals on April 13, 1954. He was 24 when he made his debut, having already earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Texas A&M University.
Moon was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers after the 1958 season. Moon’s first season with the Dodgers was their second season in Los Angeles and in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (the Dodgers played at the Coliseum from 1958 to 1961). According the author William McNeil (quoted by the Baseball Almanac), right field at L.A. Coliseum “was death for left-handed hitters.” The left field fence was 251 feet from home plate, right field was 300 feet away, and center field 420 feet away. After the 1958 season, Commissioner of Baseball Ford Frick ordered the Dodgers to add a 42-foot wall behind left field to prevent pop flies from turning into home runs.
Moon, however, found a way to overcome the wall. As a left-handed batter, Moon knew that the Coliseum would be a tough place for him. After consulting with his mentor and friend, Stan Musial, Moon adjusted his batting stance to emphasize hitting to left field. Moon’s high fly balls that dropped behind the wall became known as “Moonshots,” coined by none other than Vin Scully. During the 1959 season, Moon batted .302 with 19 home runs (14 of them at home) and his team won the World Series. The next season, Moon would bat .299 – and appear on an episode of Wagon Train!
Moon played with the Dodgers until his retirement at the end of the 1965 season. Moon was a 3-time All-Star, a member of three World Series championship teams, NL Rookie of the Year in 1954, and a Gold Glove winner in 1960. He was inducted into the Texas A&M University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1967. After his retirement from the Dodgers, Moon went on to become a batting coach for the San Diego Padres (1969); the athletic director and baseball coach at John Brown University (1966-77, except for 1969); coach, manager, and owner of the San Antonio Dodgers (1976-80); manager of the Prince William Yankees (1987-88); the second manager in Frederick Keys history (1990-91); and hitting instructor for the Baltimore Orioles. He was named the Carolina League Manager of the Year in 1990.
Thank you for your contributions to baseball and the baseball lexicon, Wally. Rest in peace.