Casey Stengel and Bill “Moose” Skowron
Bill “Moose” Skowron died today, April 27, 2012 of congestive heart failure in Arligton Heights, IL.
In this news photograph above, the caption says, “Bill Moose Skowron reports for his first day, at Comiskey Park in Chicago, September 19.”
The only problem with this is that Moose’s first game was April 13, 1954 and it was not at Comiskey Park. And the Yankees did not play in Chicago on September 19, 1954.
So what is the answer to this problem?
After Skowron was signed by the Yankees to a minor league contract to play for Binghamton, Skowron was told to report to Yankees manager Casey Stengel for special tutoring and would remain with the Yankees for the remainder of the season, although he would not be eligible to play. The date to report was Monday, September 18, 1950 in Chicago. The photograph ran in newspapers on Tuesday, September 19, 1950.
Skowron’s numbers speak for themselves. Wearing the number 14 throughout his entire fourteen year major league career, he was a winner who sparked the teams he played for. A .282 career hitter, he hit 211 career homeruns, was an eight time all-star, and a member of eight pennant winning teams, seven with the Yankees from 1955-1962.
The “Moose” most notably belied his nickname.
The five foot eleven, one hundred ninety five pound muscular fire plug often looked as if his gaze alone could knock you down, but was a true gentleman off the field. When entering Yankee Stadium through the players entrance, Skowron would frequently talk with fans and sign countless autographs. Of course many ballplayers did this back in the 1950’s and 60’s, but Moose was especially kind to children and teens.
Skowron gave up a brilliant football career at Purdue University to play baseball. After signing with the Yankees organization in 1950 he was named the minor league player of the year in 1952.
When Skowron did something well, the Yankee Stadium fans would erupt in calls of “Mooooooooooooooose,” which to the uninformed sounded like “boooooo.” “Why are they booing him,” a non-regular vistor to Yankee Stadium might ask, “he just hit a home run!”
When Lou Piniella joined the Yankees in the 1970’s, the tradition of fans elongating the “o’s” in Lou’s name to “Loooooooooooou” would remind anyone who had seen Skowron play of the “Mooooooooooooooose” call from previous years.
Moose would end up playing nine productive years for the Yankees until 1962, when he was traded after the season to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Stan Williams. Skowron’s Dodgers would end up sweeping the Yankees four games to none in the 1963 World Series.
Skowron was a fan favorite in later years at Yankee old-timer games, even if most of the fans in attendance had never seen him play. They loved his nickname.
The players from the Yankee dynasty teams of the 50’s and 60’s are dwindling. As Moose’s passing reminds us, we too get older, our heroes die and our childhood memories are all that remain.