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The Underrated Moose Skowron

By Mike Silva ~ April 28th, 2012. Filed under: New York Yankees, NY Baseball Memories.

Home run hitters tend to have nicknames. Babe Ruth was “The Bambino,” Dave Kingman was “Kong,” David Ortiz ”Big Papi” and Frank Thomas the “Big Hurt.” Bill “Moose” Skowron was a power hitting first baseman for the Yankees in the 1950s, but his nickname had nothing to do with anything he did on the field. “My grandfather shaved off all my hair when I was about 8-years old,” Skowron told me during a 2010 interview. “I was completely bald and when I got outside all the older guys started to call me Mussolini (after the Italian dictator)… as years went on through grammar school, high school and college everybody called me ‘Moose.’”

Skowron’s path to the big leagues started with him playing football in high school. He attended a Catholic school in Chicago that only participated in football and basketball. Skowron was interested in attending Notre Dame, but head football coach Frank Leahy wanted him to spend his time solely on the gridiron. He eventually would go to Purdue and play for the legendary Hank Stram who coached him in both football and baseball. He was actually drafted by the Cleveland Browns as a placekicker, but professional baseball clubs became interested in Skowron after he won the Big Ten batting title.”The Yankees offered me the best deal…I signed up with them in 1950 and they sent me to Puerto Rico to play winter ball, and who was my manager? It was Rogers Hornsby.”

Moose would make his debut with the Yankees in 1954. Over a ten year period, Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement values only three first basemen more than Skowron: Orlando CepedaRoy Sievers and Joe Adcock.  Those numbers might have been even better if he didn’t spend his first four seasons platooning with Joe Collins. He would go on to appear in five All-Star Games during his tenure in New York.

Playing for the Yankees had the perk of being in the World Series nearly every year. Moose took advantage of that stage hitting 8 home runs and driving in 29 runs throughout his Series appearances. He hit a grand slam in Game 7 against the Dodgers in 1956, and his 3-run homer in the 8th inning broke open Game 7 of the ’58 Series giving the Yankees their sixth and final championship of the decade. In total he appeared in 7 World Series and was on the winning side 5 times. Although the Pirates and Braves defeated them during that time, it was the Giants in ’62 that Skowron believes was the best team the Yankees played during that era. That was the Series that ended when Willie McCovey smoked a line drive that Bobby Richardson caught for the final out in Game 7. If that made it through it would have been San Francisco that won the championship.

Skowron was traded to the Dodgers after the 1962 season for Stan Williams. The Yankees had to make room this hot first base prospect named Joe Pepitone. He would play five more years that included stints with the White Sox, Angels and Washington Senators. Although he won a World Series (against the Yankees) with LA in ‘63 and appeared in another All-Star Game with the White Sox in ’65, Moose never stopped bleeding Yankees pinstripes. “They (Dodgers) didn’t treat me too good. I sold my World Series ring, I sold my uniform. I didn’t want that stuff… The Yankees were always good to me…I was a Yankee. ”

Moose was involved with baseball up until his passing on Friday. He worked for the White Sox in community relations and came back to New York each year for Old Timers’ Day. He loved giving advice and interacting with the modern players since one of his biggest baseball lessons came on an Old Timers’ Day early in his career when Wally Pipp  shared the story about how Lou Gehrig took his job. From that day forward Skowron vowed to never to take a day off when his name was in the lineup, regardless of how he felt. After all, he reminded me how talented the Yankees were at the position during his tenure with bonus babies like Frank Leja, Marv Throneberry and the aforementioned Pepitone vying for his spot. He could never relax no matter how well he performed.

When you think of the Yankees from the 50s and early 60s you remember Mantle, Maris, Ford and Berra. Maybe Moose Skowron isn’t the first name that comes to mind, but he certainly played a key role in that Yankees dynasty.

If you like to hear an interview I conducted with Moose Skowron back in 2010 you can download the replay here.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
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1 Response to The Underrated Moose Skowron

  1. Ron Rice

    Great piece on Skowron. I really enjoyed the tribute. We lost a legend.

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