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Meet Moose Skowron, 6 feet tall, 200 pounds, bandages included. When his wrist is not broken, when his back is not aching and when his muscles, of which he seems to have twice as many as most first basemen, are in good order, Moose plays first base for the New York Yankees. To the regret of the Yankees, such times are rare. Something is always happening to the Moose.
Just last week, for instance, the Yankees were taking batting practice at Miller Huggins Field in St. Petersburg. A tall rookie was pitching when Skowron took his turn at bat. The first pitch was slow and over the plate, and Skowron bunted. Then the rookie wound up and threw his very best fast ball. It sailed right at Moose's head. Twisting and falling away, Skowron managed to take the pitch on the shoulder instead of the ear. It hurt, but he was all right. When the next batter, Elston Howard, stepped into the cage, he asked the catcher where the pitch had hit Skowron.
"Shoulder," said the catcher.
"Thank God," said Howard softly, shaking his head.
Moose's physical welfare concerns all the Yankee players. When he is healthy he plays, when he plays he hits home runs, and when he hits home runs it helps the Yankees to win pennants and make money. Skowron has played with the Yankees for six seasons, and in only one of those, 1956, was he able to get through the year without a sidelining injury. Two of his injuries were especially severe. Late in the 1957 season, he hurt his back in the area around the base of the spine while lifting an air conditioner. Recurrences of that injury have plagued him periodically ever since. Last July, his left wrist was smashed when he collided with the base runner while reaching for a throw from third base. The injury put him out for the season.
This spring, however, Skowron feels fine. His back, supported by a baby-blue surgical corset, is not aching. His wrist, secretly operated on during the winter to relieve pressure on a nerve, is mended and strong again. In practice he has been hammering at the ball in his customary manner.
One day recently after the Yankees' morning workout, Moose Skowron sat in the sun outside the clubhouse digesting his lunch of cold cuts and hard-boiled eggs.
HIGH COST OF HURTING
"Everybody wants to know about my injuries," he said in answer to a question. "The way some people talk, you'd think I enjoy getting hurt. Hell, every time something happens to me it costs me money. When I go in to discuss a contract for a new season they say, 'Look, Moose, you only played in 70 games last year.' The worst of it is I always get hurt when I'm going real good. Think that's any fun? But I guess I really shouldn't complain. There's little kids a lot worse off than I am. Paralyzed from the waist down and things. But I still don't like getting hurt."
Last October the Yankee management sent its battered Moose to the Mayo Clinic for a complete examination. He spent a week there, soaking his wrist in whirlpool baths and having tests made on his back. The doctors found nothing chronically wrong with him but suggested he try swimming to develop more elasticity in his muscles.