Volume 4 – Donnie Moore
Less than 18,000 men have played Major League Baseball, that’s it. Think about that, if every player that ever played in the Majors sat in the stands at Wrigley Field, the place would be half empty.
When put in those terms, it seems like we baseball fans would have a fairly solid handle on almost all the players that have played the game. Yet for the overwhelming majority of those players, their careers are nondescript. They pass like a blur, only to be remembered by friends and family or on the pages of the Baseball Encyclopedia and Baseball-Reference.com.
So to be remembered for playing Major League Baseball is a special thing. Why they are remembered though is a different story.
Some are remembered for great careers; Ruth, Aaron, Jeter.
Others are remembered for the events of just one game; Don Larsen, Harvey Haddix
And still others are remembered for just a single play or pitch or at-bat; Fred Merkle, Al Downing, Brant Brown, Ralph Branca. It’s this category that our latest ‘He Was A Cub’ falls into.
The moment we remember came on Oct 12th 1986 in game 5 of the ALCS as Donnie Moore was pitching to Dave Henderson.
Moore and the California Angels were leading Boston 3 games to 1 in the best of 7 series as they headed to the 9th inning with a 5-2 lead over the Red Sox in Game 5. I think there is little doubt that if that game was being played today; Donnie Moore, the team closer, would have been brought in to start the inning. However the Angels stayed with starting pitcher Mike Witt. Witt allowed a leadoff single to Bill Buckner (who went on to play a significant role in Game 5 of the WS that year), then struck out Jim Rice before giving up a two-run home run to Don Baylor. Witt then got Dwight Evans to pop-out to third base. With left-handed hitting Rich Gedman due up, the Angels went to the bullpen and brought in lefty Gary Lucas. On his first pitch, Lucas hit Gedman. So with a 1-run lead and a runner on first, Donnie Moore comes in to face Dave Henderson. Henderson gets to a 2-2 count before fouling off two more pitches……….and then it happens…………….
Donnie Moore was drafted by the Cubs in the first round of the supplemental draft in January of 1973. He signed that summer and was sent to the Cubs rookie league team. In 1974 he played for the Cubs single and double A teams. He was a combined 11-16 with a 3.26 era as a starter. In 1975 he again pitched for AA Midland. As a starting pitcher, he was 14-8 with a 2.97 era. That season’s minor league performance earned Donnie a September call-up to the Cubs.
Donnie Moore made his Major League debut on September 14th 1975 against the Philadelphia Phillies. Coming into the game in relief of starter Steve Stone, the first batter Moore faced in his career was future HOF third baseman Mike Schmidt with two runners on base. Schmidt hit a single that ended up scoring both runs with the help of an error by catcher George Mitterwald. Moore pitched in 3 more games that fall.
Donnie spent all of the 1976 season and half of 1977 back in the Cubs minor league system. For the remainder of the ’77 season as well as 1978-79, Donnie would be shuttled back and forth between the Cubs major and minor league teams.
During his career with the Cubs, Moore pitched 233 innings over 141 games. His record was 14-13 with a 4.44 era.
Just after the 1979 season ended, Donnie was traded by the Cubs to the St. Louis Cardinals for Mike Tyson. Moore started the year on the Opening Day roster, but was sent back to the minors in May for the remainder of the 1980 season.
Donnie spent all of the 1981 season in AAA until he was purchased in September in what was basically a rent-a-player deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. Moore pitched in 3 games that month for the Brew Crew before being returned to the Cardinals after the season.
The next spring Donnie was traded to the Atlanta Braves. Like he had done with the Cubs and the Cardinals, Moore spent the next two seasons moving back and forth between the Major League team and AAA. It wasn’t until 1984 that Donnie spent the entire season in the majors. That year he had a 2.94 era and was the primary closer in a closer-by-committee bullpen.
That winter he was taken by the California Angels in the Free Agent Compensation draft. It was a great pick for the Angels and Moore. Donnie had what would be his best career season. He was 8-8 with 31 saves. He made his only All-Star team and finished 6th in the AL MVP balloting. It was perfect timing for Moore as he became a free agent after the season. The Angels re-signed Moore for $2M over two years, a huge contract at the time.
Although 1986 wasn’t as good for Moore as ’85 had been, he still was 5th in the AL in saves and the team made it to the playoffs.
After the heartbreaking loss in the ’86 ALCS, 1987 was not kind to Moore. Because games 6 and 7 of the previous years ALCS were in Boston, the fans were getting their first chance to “greet” their players after the Championship Series loss, and they vented their disappointment at Moore the most. Donnie was routinely boo’d by the home town fans early in the season; and although he didn’t pitch horribly, he started out by blowing 2 of his first 5 save chances and gave up runs in 5 of 6 outings. Eventually, Donnie ended up spending most of the 1987 season on the DL.
That winter Moore was re-signed as a free agent again by the Angels for $1M. Moore had a poor season in 1988 and was released by the Angels on August 26th.
Donnie was signed as a free agent by the KC Royals in 1989 and sent to AAA. Unfortunately he didn’t pitch well there, a 6.39 era in 7 games, and was released in June. He never pitched in a professional game again. His last big league appearance came on August 7th, 1988 against the Chicago White Sox.
Just a month after his release from the Royals, Donnie Moore got into an altercation with his wife during which he shot her. Tonya Moore survived the shooting, but Donnie turned the gun on himself and committed suicide.
One can never know for sure what ultimately lead Moore to take his own life, but it’s clear that Donnie’s life changed both professionally and emotionally after giving up that home run to Henderson and it without doubt played a role in his eventual demise.
And so maybe Donnie Moore will always be remembered for one pitch that he delivered to Dave Henderson on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Anaheim in Game 5 of the ALCS………….
But just for one day………….let’s remember that………….
Donnie Moore was a Cub………………..
Volume 3 -
Rich “Goose” Gossage.
With the recent announcement of the Hall of Fame class of
2011, I thought it would be appropriate to showcase a HOF member as the next
subject for my “He Was a Cub” series. That hall of famer is Rich “Goose”
Rich Gossage was drafted in the 9th round of the
1970 amateur draft by the Chicago White Sox.
After being drafted, Gossage pitched 51 innings in single “A” ball to finish
out the summer of 1970. The next season, 1971, Rich Gossage was a starting
pitcher for single “A” Appleton, and Gossage totally dominated his opponents. Rich
made 24 starts that year going 18-2 with a 1.83 era.
Gossage’s great minor league season led to a roster spot
with the Chicago White Sox for the 1972 season as a reliever in the bullpen,
although his first appearance would be delayed by the first ever players
strike. The start of the season began 13 days late and Gossage made his first
appearance on April 16 against the Kansas City Royals. With runners on second
and third and no outs, Gossage came on in the bottom of the fifth in a 1-1 tie.
The first batter that Gossage faced was the 1969 AL rookie of the year, Lou
Piniella. Gossage walked Piniella to load the bases. The next batter hit
into a 6-4 force-out at second with a run scoring and then Gossage was able to
get out of the inning without additional runs scoring.
With Chuck Tanner as his
manager, Goose Gossage spent his first three seasons in the bullpen for the
White Sox pitching middle relief and making a couple of spot starts. The main
closer for those teams was Terry Forster, however, during the 1975 season
Forster suffered an injury and Gossage took over the closer role. That season
Gossage made 62 appearances with a 9-8 record, 1.84 era, and a league leading 26
saves. Unfortunately for Chuck Tanner, the Sox finished 75-86 in fifth place
and Tanner was fired.
In 1976, new Sox manager Paul Richards decided to make Rich
Gossage a starting pitcher again. Gossage made 29 starts; he was 9-17 with a
3.94 era. Meanwhile, Chuck Tanner was managing the Oakland A’s for one season
with Rollie Fingers as his closer.
Chuck Tanner was fired from Oakland after the ’76 season and
hired by the Pittsburgh Pirates to be their
new manager. One of his first moves was to make a trade with the White Sox for
Goose Gossage and Terry Forster. Tanner told Gossage he would make him the
closer like he was under Tanner in Chicago. That season Gossage saved 26 games
to go along with 11 wins and a 1.62 era.
Today Gossage gives Chuck Tanner all the credit for defining
his role in baseball and making into who he became.
Rich Gossage became a free agent for the first time
following the 1977 season and he signed with the team that he would become synonyms
with, the New York Yankees.
Over the next 7 seasons Gossage dominated the AL in the
closer role for the Yankees saving 151 games, winning 42 more. He was a four
time all-star with the Yanks, getting Cy Young and MVP votes three different
times each during that period.
After the 1983 season, Gossage left the Yankees and signed
as a free agent with the San Diego Padres. 1984 would be a good year for both
Gossage and the Padres as San Diego made the playoffs and crushed the hopes of
Cubs fans winning three straight games and winning the NL title 3 games to 2.
In the World Series the Detroit Tigers beat San Diego 4 games to 1.
Rich Gossage pitched the next three years for the Padres
bringing his four year total stats with San Diego to 25 wins, 83 saves, and a
On February 12, 1988 the Padres
traded Gossage and Ray Hayward to the Chicago Cubs for Mike Brumley and
At the age of 36, Gossage pitched in 46 games for the Cubs
in 1988. He was 4-4 with 13 saves and a 4.33 era for Don Zimmer’s 77-85 fourth
place finishing Cubs. That season he pitched in 21 games at Wrigley Field going
2-3 with a 5.06 era over 16 innings. 1988 would be Gossage’s only season with
the Cubs; during spring training of 1989 Chicago released the Goose.
Over the next five years Gossage pitched with five different
teams including Oakland, the Rangers, and finishing his career with the Seattle
Rich Gossage pitched his last game on August 8th,
1994 for Seattle against the Rangers in Texas. He pitched the final 3 innings
in a 14-4 Seattle win to earn his 310th
and last career save.
Richard ” Goose” Gossage entered the Hall of Fame in 2008 with
85% of the writers vote in his 9 year on the ballot.
Photos – Bing Image Search, SI, Vintage Cards
Volume 2 - Don Larsen
Most people know of Don Larsen; they know he pitched for the
Yankees, and of course, most know that he threw a perfect game in the fifth
game of the 1956 World Series. But most people don’t really know much about the
totality of his career.
Don Larsen signed with the St. Louis Browns as an amateur
free agent and played his first professional season in 1947 with Aberdeen of
the Northern League. From 1947 to 1950 Don played for 5 different teams in the
Browns minor league system. He was 36-29 during that time.
Following the 1950 season, Don started active duty in the
military with the Army. Over the next couple years Larsen was based in Hawaii
and he played with the Army baseball team.
Don returned from active service before the 1953 MLB season
and made the St Louis Browns despite not having pitched with the franchise in
over two years.
During his rookie season Don pitched in 38 games, starting
22 of them. He went 7-12 for the last place 54-100 Browns. For the 1954 season the Browns moved to
Baltimore and became the Orioles. The change of scenery did little to help the
team or Don. The newly minted Orioles went 55-99 and Don led the league in
loses, posting a 3-21 record.
Following the 1954 season, Don was traded to the New York Yankees
in what would eventually become a 15 player trade after everything was
During the next five seasons with the Yankees, Don made 128
regular season appearances, starting 90 games. He was 45-24 with a 3.50 ERA. He
also appeared in four World Series during this time. He made 7 starts, going
3-2. Of course, Don’s most famous game happened during the 1956 WS. Don pitched
the only perfect game in post-season history against the Brooklyn Dodgers on
October 8th winning 2-0.
After a 6-7 1959 season, Don was traded to the Kansas City
A’s. One of the players the Yankees received in return was Roger Maris.
Don struggled in the 1960 season. He went 1-10 with a 5.38
ERA and spent some time back in the minors.
Over the next 6 years Don Larsen played with 5 different
teams including the Giants, White Sox, and the Astros.
After playing with Baltimore for the second time in his
career, Larsen was released by the Orioles on April 11, 1966. He signed with
Phoenix of the PCL and pitched the entire year in the minors.
For the 1967 season he signed with the Chicago Cubs. He pitched with the
Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs AA team before being called up to pitch with the Cubs
Don made three appearances for the Cubs. He pitched in
relief on July 3rd, 4th, and 7th. He was 0-0
in four innings. He had 2 walks, 1 K, gave up 4 runs, including a HR to Mack
Jones, and finished with a 9.00 ERA.
Don pitched the 1968 season with two different Chicago Cubs
minor league teams, but he never made a major league appearance again.
Don Larsen finished his major league career with an 81-91
record and a 3.78 ERA.
Don was never a HOF type pitcher. But for one day in October
of 1956 he was perfect, and for that he will always be remembered.
Last week I
wrote a short post about Bobby Thomson after his passing. You can read it here.
At the end was a picture of his 1959 Topps card which depicted him in a Chicago uniform. One of
the commenter’s mentioned never seeing Thomson in a Cub hat before and a friend
also told me he was surprised to find out that Bobby Thomson had been a Cub at
one time during his career.
comments made me think about other players that once played for the Cubs but
were better known as having played for or making their mark in baseball with
organizations other than Chicago. So I’ve decided to present a semi-regular
post called ‘He Was a Cub?’, which will talk about players that at some point
during their career played for the Cubs but are remembered for being with another
1 – Terry Francona
Baseball has been a part of Terry Francona’s life since his birth in 1959. His
father, Tito Francona, played 15 seasons in the major leagues with 7 different
teams from 1956 to 1970.
was a standout athlete in high school and was drafted in 1977 by the Chicago
Cubs in the second round of the amateur draft. However, Francona did not sign
with the Cubs and instead played college baseball at the University of Arizona
where he was an All-American and won the Golden Spikes Award as the best
college baseball player in the nation. In the June 1980 amateur draft he was
selected in the first round, 22 overall, by the Montreal Expos.
just over a year in the minors before being called up to play with the Expos.
His first game was Aug 19, 1981. His first action was as a pinch hitter in the
eighth inning against Houston right-hander Dave Smith. The left-hand hitting
Francona grounded out to the first baseman unassisted.
Terry was never able to fully live up to his great college career and rapid
rise through the minors. After 5 decent but uneventful seasons with Montreal
where he hit a combined .290 with just 7 HR’s and 88 RBI’s in 951 AB’s, he was
released on April 1, 1986.
where the Cubs again come into Francona’s life. Chicago quickly signed Terry
and after a couple weeks with the Cubs AAA team in Iowa Francona made his Cub
debut on May 2nd. Terry started at first base batting second in the
Cub lineup against Juan Berenguer and the SF Giants. He went 1 for 5 with an
played 86 games that year with the Cubs, starting 16 and getting 133 PA’s. He
hit .250 with 2 HR’s and 8 RBI’s.
season was over, Terry was granted free agency. The next spring he signed with
the Cincinnati Reds.
parts of three more seasons with the Indians and Brewers before playing his
final game on April 19, 1990.
career numbers are; 1731 AB’s, .274 BA,
16 HR, 143 RBI, 12 SB
Today, Francona is the manager of the Boston Red Sox.