Yesterday, baseball lost one of it's greatest ambassadors in Bill "Moose" Skowron. The Moose passed away at 81 years old. Most of the younger White Sox fans remember him as the funny old guy that would tell some great stories about the Yankees and about baseball in the '50s and '60s on The Score during White Sox broadcasts.
Although Skowron was funny and had great stories, you were also listening to one of the better hitters in all of baseball during the Golden Era. The Moose was overshadowed by his more popular teammates like Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra and Roger Maris but Skowron was also a big threat in the Yankee lineup.
The Chicago born star made his debut in 1954 at the age of 23 and made an immediate impact, hitting .340/.392/.577 over 237 plate appearances. In 1956, Moose got his first taste as a regular in the Yankee lineup, and didn't disappoint as he hit .308/.382/.528 with 23 homers and 90 RBIs.
In 1957, he hit .304 with 17 homers and 88 RBIs en route to his first All Star game. 1958 was a "down" year for the Moose as he only hit .273, but he saved his best work for the World Series. That year, Skowron drove in the 4th Yankee run in a 4-3 victory in game 6 and in game 7 he hit a 3 run homer in the 8th to put the game out of reach as the Yankees beat the Braves for the championship. That wasn't his first game 7 homer though, as Skowron also hit a grand slam in the 7th inning of game 7 during the Yankees 1956 championship against the Dodgers.
In 1959, Skowron was limited to 74 games due to injury. The Yankees struggled that year and the White Sox went to their first World Series since 1919 as New York fell to third place.
Moose came back in 1960 with a strong year and finished 9th in the MVP voting. He smashed 26 homers and 91 RBIs while hitting .309/.353/.528. The Yankees lost the World Series that year, but Skowron hit .375 with 2 more homers.
In 1961, Moose teamed up with Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris to become the all time leading home run hitting threesome in Major League History. Maris (61), Mantle (54) and Skowron (28) hit 143 combined homers, 9 more than the 2nd place Barry Bonds led 2001 Giants. The Yankees were back in the Fall Classic, and Moose hit .353 with a homer in the series.
In his final season with the Yankees, Skowron hit 23 homers and knocked in 80 as the Yankees won the World Series yet again, this time against the Giants. He was traded to the Dodgers after the season and ended his Yankee career by hitting .294/.346/.496 with 165 homers, 672 RBIs, 5 All Star appearances and 7 World Series appearances (4 championships).
For whatever reason, the Moose struggled in Dodger Blue as he hit .203 with 4 homers. Maybe he wasn't familiar with the surroundings. However, the Dodgers made the World Series that year. That was a place that Skowron was very familiar. Against his old team, he hit .385/.429/.615 with another homer as the Dodgers swept the Yankees. That would be Skowron's final postseason appearance. He still ranks 7th in World Series home runs with 8 and 6th in RBIs with 29. 1-5 on the RBI list? Mantle, Berra, Gehrig, Ruth and DiMaggio.
Skowron was sold to the Washington Senators for the 1964 season and after getting back on track with 13 homers and 41 RBIs in 73 games, he was traded to his hometown White Sox on July 13, 1964 as the Sox were in the hunt for the World Series. The '64 Sox finished 98-64, unfortunately the Yanks were one game better. The Sox went 10-1 in their last 11 games. The Yankees went 11-0. Skowron fell just short on making the Fall Classic with 3 different teams in 3 years.
In 1965, Skowron led the Sox with 18 homers and 78 RBIs. He made the All Star team for the sixth and final time in his career. The Sox went 95-67, but again finished in 2nd place, 7 games behind the Minnesota Twins.
In 1966, Skowron hit the wall as he hit .249 with just 6 homers and after 8 at bats in 1967, he was shipped out to the Angels where he closed out his career hitting .220 with 1 homer in 131 at bats. Skowron finished his career hitting .282/.332/.459 with 211 homers and 888 RBIs.
Yankee stadium no doubt hurt his power production. He only hit 60 of his 165 Yankee homers at home due to the ridiculous dimensions to left and left center field, but he mastered hitting the ball the other way.
I first met the Moose in the late 80s at a baseball card show in Harvey. He was signing autographs with his old buddies Mickey Mantle and Hank Bauer. He seemed like a great, fun guy who was all excited that he had the beers on ice for the post-signing festivities.
In the late '90s, he opened up a tavern named "Call Me Moose" in Cicero, and that is where my dad and I came to know the Moose pretty well. The restaurant was decked out in Yankee and baseball memorabilia and was located right across the street from Skowron's favorite place... the race track. I'd meet my dad there for lunch and hear Moose tell many stories about Mantle, Maris, playing for the Sox, his love of his alma mater Weber High School, stories about how he loved Coach Bobby Knight and many, many more. He'd always have some type of memorabilia he was looking to sell to my dad, who would sometimes oblige. He went on to work for the Sox, and every time we would see him whether it be at Sox Fest, the Grinder Bash or the Clubhouse Sale, Moose would always approach us, say hello, shake hands, swear a little bit, tell my dad to get the hell out of here when he'd bring something for him to sign and tell some more stories.
I'll miss those stories. RIP Moose.