APRIL 22, 1957
The narrow-eyed, lean-and-hungry look of Cardinal Wally Moon on the above cover recalled an even earlier era of St. Louis baseball. Moon's all-out play in 1957 revived memories of the Cardinals' rough-and-tumble Gashouse Gang teams of the mid-'30s. Like Gashouser Pepper Martin, Moon was hell-bent on the bases and hit the ball to all fields with authority (.295 average and 24 homers in '57). Like Gashouser Dizzy Dean, Moon grew up in Arkansas as an ardent Cardinals fan. Unlike Pepper and Diz, however, Moon had a scholarly manner off the field, befitting his master's in education from Texas A&M, and he never played on a St. Louis pennant winner. In fact, two years after our cover story declared him the embodiment of all that Cardinals baseball stood for, he was traded, over his fierce objections, to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Yet it was in glitzy L.A. that Moon achieved his greatest fame. He adapted his lefthanded hitting stroke to the peculiar dimensions of sprawling Los Angeles Coliseum, then the Dodgers' home. It was 390 feet to the fence in the rightfield power alley, which made pull-hitting inadvisable for Moon, but the leftfield fence, topped by a makeshift 42-foot-high screen, was a mere 251 feet down the line. In 1959, his first season with the Dodgers, Moon perfected an uppercut slice to propel even inside pitches over that convenient barrier. Fourteen of his 19 homers popped over the screen. Through sheer artifice, he hit more homers to left at home than did his much more powerful righthanded-hitting teammate Gil Hodges. Moon Shots, they were called. They carried the Dodgers, in only their third season in L.A., to the World Series, which they won.
Moon retired from the Dodgers after the 1965 season with a career batting average of .289. He taught education and coached baseball at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Ark., for 12 years, owned and operated a Double A franchise in San Antonio for five years and then managed and coached in the minor leagues until a heart attack in '95 forced him into retirement. Today, he says, he's healthy and happy, living with his wife, Betty, in College Station, Texas, near their respective alma maters, A&M and Texas Woman's University. Four of their five children were Aggies, and three, like their father, became teachers. Still, despite all the success he had enjoyed, Moon has never forgiven the Cardinals for trading him. "Yes, I'm still angry," he says. "As a lifelong Cardinals fan it's hard to rationalize that trade." Spoken like a true Gashouser.