LOS ANGELES -- Wally Moon, who adjusted to the quirky dimensions of Memorial Coliseum with the "Moon Shot" and was on three World Series championship teams, died on Friday in Bryan, Tex. He was 87.A National League Rookie of the Year for St. Louis in 1954 -- when he beat
LOS ANGELES -- Wally Moon, who adjusted to the quirky dimensions of Memorial Coliseum with the "Moon Shot" and was on three World Series championship teams, died on Friday in Bryan, Tex. He was 87.
A National League Rookie of the Year for St. Louis in 1954 -- when he beat out Hank Aaron -- Moon was a three-time All-Star and a Gold Glove outfielder. But it was his adaptation to the 40-foot-high screen in left field of the Coliseum for which he was known.
A left-handed hitter, Moon quickly realized when the Dodgers took up temporary residence at the Coliseum after the move from Brooklyn that pulling the ball to the "death valley" in right and center field was futile.
Down the line in left field was only 251 feet, but a 40-foot-high screen was placed in front of the seats and, after a discussion with former teammate Stan Musial, Moon deployed an inside-out swing to lift pop flies over the screen. Between 1959-61, Moon hit 49 home runs, 37 at the Coliseum.
Moon was traded to the Dodgers in 1959 after five years with the Cardinals, where he replaced future Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter. Moon played for Los Angeles title teams in 1959, '63 and '65 before retiring. He led the NL in triples in '59, led the NL with a .434 on-base percentage in '61 and finished in the top 10 for batting average four times.
Moon played baseball and basketball at Texas A&M, but he also received a Master's degree in Education there as well and was inducted into the school's athletic Hall of Fame.
After his playing days, Moon coached four seasons in San Diego and was athletic director and baseball coach and John Brown University. He then owned the Dodgers' Double-A affiliate in San Antonio, and among the players on those clubs were Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser, Bob Welch and Steve Sax.
Moon retired back to Texas to care for his college sweetheart and wife of 64 years, Betteye, who died two years ago.
"They had an amazing marriage," daughter LeRhesa Moon said.
Moon had remained an active supporter of the Texas A&M athletic program. He threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day in 2017. He is survived by five children.
"He loved baseball, but he loved teaching the game of baseball and teaching the game of life," daughter Zola Moon said. "One of Dad's legacies is how many men he taught to be good men, as well as good ballplayers."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.