Bill Dickey With Rookie Moose Skowron In Spring Training – 1953
Lake Wales, FL Feb. 21 – BIG GUNS – New York Yankees coach Bill Dickey (left) looks over the big bats carried by Bill Skowron, rookie outfielder at the Yankees baseball school here today. Skowron, from Austin, Minn., hit .341 for Kansas City last season and won the American Association’s most valuable player title while blasting 31 home runs. (AP Wirephoto 1953)
Evidentlly Bill “Moose” Skowron could swing seven bats at once. You would think with the kind of season that Bill Skowron put up in the minors in 1952 he would at least get on the roster with the big team in 1953.
Nothing doing. The 22-year-old Skowron spent the entire 1953 season in the minor leagues with Kansas City.
The main reason was that the Yankees were so deep in outfield talent that there was nowhere for Skowron to play in 1953. The Yankees outfield consisted of Gene Woodling, Hank Bauer and Mickey Mantle. On February 27 Yankees manager Casey Stengel realized Skowron’s predicament and ordered Moose to begin learning to play first base. The Yankees would win their fifth consecutive World Series title in 1953 and Skowron would have to wait until 1954 to crack the lineup.
When Skowron finally got the chance to play in the bigs, it was at first base, where he gradually began reducing veteran first baseman Joe Collins’ playing time.
In 1954 Skowron got into in 87 games and batted .340. Skowron’s playing time increased the following three seasons and he posted batting averages of .319, .308 and .304 from 1955 – 1957. Joe Collins retired in 1957.
What some people may not know is that Skowron might never have had a chance to play for the Yankees if the team had promoted another first baseman who was putting up numbers similar to Skowron in 1952 and 1953.
Also on the Kansas City team was Vic Power who hit 16 home runs with 109 RBIs and batted .309 in 1952. The following season Power had 217 hits, 16 home runs, 93 RBIs and hit .349, winning the American Association’s most valuable player award, the year after Skowron won his MVP award. Skowron was called up in 1954 ,and the Yankees traded Power and five other players on December 16, 1953 to the Philadelphia Athletics as part of an 11 player deal. Vic Power went on to have a 12 year major league career with 1716 hits and a .284 average. He won seven gold glove awards and was a six time all-star. Skowron had a 14 year career batting .282 with 211 home runs.
Had the Yankees promoted Power, he would have become the first African American to play for the Yankees. That milestone would not occur until Elston Howard was called up in 1955. That was eight years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier.