Although I have been known to complain about my age from time to time, I am still a little too young to remember the playing days of Moose Skowron, but I was lucky enough to know the man. He may not be the first name people think of when talking about those Yankee teams that won all those World Series titles in the fifties and early sixties, but any baseball historian will tell you he played an important part in winning four of those championships, and also won a fifth ring with the Dodgers in 1963, batting .385 in the series to beat his former team. Over his 14 year career, he was an All-Star eight times, was a .282 lifetime hitter, drove in 888 runs, and hit 211 home runs. But what all the stats won’t tell you is that Moose was one of the most generous ambassadors for the game of baseball, and that anyone who got a chance to talk to him, left with a smile on their face that would last for hours.
On more than one occasion, I had the pleasure to eat lunch with Moose, and every meal with him was an adventure of its own. It didn’t take much to get him to start talking, and when he did, the tales he spun were priceless. Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, Roger Maris and his traveling roommate Mickey Mantle, were just part of the cast of characters who stared in his stories. Although many times if there were ladies around, he would only tell the PG-13 version of the tales.
My favorite Moose moment involved my son, Alex. Alex was only about 10 or 11 at the time, and he had been pondering about the 1955 World Series, and the fact that Jackie Robinson had stollen home during the first game. He had been talking about it for a few days, and when he happened to ask me if I thought Robinson was safe or out, I told him I honestly didn’t know, but that maybe he should ask someone who was there that day. That was when I pointed to Moose. Somewhat sheepishly, we walked over to Moose and I introduced my son to him. And then very quietly, Alex started to ask his question, but before he could even finish, Moose started on about how Yogi said he was out. With the same passion as if it had just happened, he rambled about the day and the play and what a lousy call it was. My son was now staring back with eyes as big as dinner plates.
Moose passed away early this morning. He was 81 years old, and to the end he was a fan favorite in both Chicago and New York. He took with him a piece of baseball history, but thanks to his endless gift of gab, he has shared some of that history with countless numbers of people, myself and my son included. He is an irreplacable part of the game that has become such a big part of my life, and he will be missed by many.
But something tells me that God is getting himself a pretty good earful right about now.