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Texas A&M Baseball

A Legend Passes: Texas A&M baseball great Wally Moon dies at 87

February 10, 2018

Wally Moon, a Texas A&M Sports Hall of Famer and one of the most decorated athletes to ever wear the Maroon and White, passed away Friday evening in Bryan, Texas. He was 87.

Moon played basketball and baseball at A&M in 1949 and 1950 and was an All-Southwest Conference outfielder in his final season. He went on to a highly successful career in Major League Baseball, hitting a home run in his first MLB at-bat in ’54 on his way to winning Rookie of the Year honors as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. Moon went on to lead the LA Dodgers to three World Series titles, in ’59, ’63 and ’65.

Moon was a three-time All-Star and NL Gold Glove winner as an outfielder in 1960. The other two outfielders to win the Gold Glove that year in the NL? Willie Mays and Henry Aaron.

Moon became famous around baseball in the ‘50s and ‘60s for his propensity to hit mammoth, sky-high home runs, often referred to around baseball as “Moon Shots.” He hit 142 career round-trippers and never hit more than 24 in a single season. But it was the way he hit them that had players, media and fans around the game in awe.

When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in ’58, they played in the LA Coliseum for four years before moving into their current stadium at Chavez Ravine. The left-handed-hitting Moon was coming off of a season in which he hit .238 with just seven home runs in his final season in St. Louis. To make matters worse, the Coliseum’s odd dimensions were a death nell for left-handed pull hitters. The power alley in right center field was 440 feet away from home plate. But the left field fence was just 251 feet away, protected by a 42-foot tall “monster.”

Moon had a conversation with his old Cardinals teammate – the legendary Stan “The Man” Musial – upon his move to the Dodgers. Musial encouraged him to focus on hitting to the opposite field and helped him change his mindset as a hitter.

It worked. Moon changed his swing to get the ball high in the air toward that left field wall – a la David Ortiz for years in Boston – and hit .302 in his first year in LA with 19 home runs, a league-leading 11 triples, 26 doubles and an .890 OPS. He was an All-Star in ’59 and finished a career-best fourth in the MVP voting. And thus, the legend of “Moon Shots” was born.

His knack for hitting eye-popping home runs began at Texas A&M when, according to legend, Moon once hit a ball from old Kyle Baseball Field over the wall and onto the track surrounding Kyle Football Field. Moon described this specific home run when he joined TexAgs Radio on September 20, 2011.

“I hit one from the baseball field onto the Kyle Field track in 1949,” Moon said. “Coach Anderson, the track coach, retrieved it for me. I still have that baseball. It was a monstrous home run, and lots of people still talk about it. It was high, and I would classify that as my first 'Moon Shot.'”

Moon humbly estimated that home run at 400 feet. Others who saw it say it eclipsed the 500-foot mark. As time passes by, the genesis of the "Moon Shot" continues to grow in distance and legend among those who were lucky enough to see the home run in-person.

Click here to watch Moon’s appearance on TexAgs Radio in full.

Wally Moon was known for his “Moon Shots” on the baseball field. And those closest to him remember his love and passion for his family, the great game of baseball and for Texas A&M.

Discussion from...

A Legend Passes: Texas A&M baseball great Wally Moon dies at 87

44,580 Views | 9 Replies | Last: 6 yr ago by StickTogetherAgs
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When my dad '53 came back to finish his degree after the WWII in 1950 we lived in splinter village, the old military barracks in married student housing. Wally lived across the hall with his wife. He taught me to throw and catch. God Bless him and his Aggie legacy. Thank you Lord
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I had the pleasure of escorting Wally to the monthly luncheon of his A&M classmates held at the Phillips Event Center earlier this week. It had been a while since Wally had attended one of the gatherings and I could tell how glad he was to be around friends. He was the best-dressed individual there and graciously introduced me to everyone in attendance.

I also had the privilege, nearly ten years ago, to join Wally at a baseball card show in Houston. After signing several dozen baseball's in a back room, he emerged and was kind enough to introduce me to some his "friends" there, too: Tony Gwynn, Bruce Sutter and Monte Irvin. When it came time for Wally to sign fan autographs, a long line formed in front of his table. In fact, that line dwarfed similar queues for present and future Hall of Famers Gaylord Perry and Craig Biggio. I asked several of the fans in Wally's line why they were there. The most common explanation: "Wally Moon was my father's favorite player. He talked about him all the time when I was growing up."

The term "moon shot" was coined because of Wally Moon. But there's another expression that describes him well.

Class act.

True gentleman; exemplary husband, father and friend.

Man of Faith.

Embodiment of all it means to be an Aggie.

Thank you, Wally, for your friendship, your support and the example which you set for so many.

Like your accomplishments on the ball field, you always made it look so easy.

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Gig'em Rellis . Wally was an honarable and kind man.
He could hit to the opposite field with power as well.
Gig'em Mr Wally .
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A good Aggie and a fine gentleman.

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Thanks for sharing Gabe.
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sad news.

a man among the boys
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My dad Jerry Nelson played with him at A&M, said he was a great man. #RIP
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I had the incredible pleasure of getting to know Wally during my many years at A&M. I took a part time job after graduate school, teaching water aerobics at St. Joseph's a very popular place for BCS retirees. Wally and his wife Bettye were two one of my students, and after class we'd have long conversations about life. He would tell me about his career, but honestly we talked more about current topics of the day my full time job which I hated, going back to school to switch careers, whether my then-boyfriend-now-husband would ever marry me . He talked a lot about his children and grandchildren he was incredibly proud of them and loved them. I remember him once telling me the story of how he got into the majors. He was invited to spring training for the minors but he already had a wife and child when he left Aggieland (with a master's if I recall correctly he was no slouch in the student part of student-athlete). So he drove to spring training for the majors. He told he had a family and didn't want to waste time in the minors . I loved that tale.

Wally and Bettye had me over for dinner several times, and I need to dig it out but there's a wonderful picture of us at my graduation party. He was a wonderful friend. I had no family nearby, and never really fit in in BCS. I loved those students of mine so very much. Wally was a great man and I am honored and proud he was my friend.
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