Bill Skowron played first base for the New York Yankees from 1954-62.
He was a powerful right-handed hitter who was hurt by the great distances to left field (402 ft to the bullpen gate) and left center field (457 ft), but had great power to opposite field and occasionally took advantage of Yankee Stadium's short porch in right field (344 ft).
Skowron batted .294 as a Yankee, with a .346 on base average and a .496 slugging average. He usually batted filth, behind Yogi Berra or Mickey Mantle, depending on which one of them was the clean up hitter.
The "Moose," as he was known, was good friends with Mickey Mantle.
In 1995, Skowron had double bypass heart surgery. He loves to tell the story of how Mickey called him every day while he was in the hospital and of how Mickey made him "crack up" laughing when he went home.
"I had double-bypass surgery that year and Mick called me every day. When I got home from the hospital, he called to say, 'Moose, how ya feeling?' I said, 'Fine, Mick, just fine.' and he said, 'Great. The only reason I ask is that most people who have that operation only live two days.' I said, 'Mickey, please. It hurts to laugh."
Following the 1962 season, the Yankees, in need of pitching help and with young first baseman Joe Pepitone waiting in the wings, traded Skowron to the Los Angeles Dodgers for right-handed pitcher Stan Williams.
Two months earlier Williams had been instrumental in the Dodgers losing a tie-breaking playoffs series for the pennant to the San Francisco Giants when he walked two of the three batters he faced in the ninth inning.
Skowron was a Yankee. He will always be remembered as a Yankee. When he was traded, he seriously considered retiring. Purdue University, which Skowron had attended, offered him a position to coach baseball.
He turned down Purdue's offer and reported to the Dodgers, but some thought his heart wasn't in it. Skowron hit only .203 with a meager four home runs, but when the Dodgers met the Yankees in the 1963, the "Moose" became loose.
He batted .385, hit a home run, and slugged .615 as the Dodgers embarrassed the Yankees with a four game sweep.
In 1964, Skowron was with the Chicago White Sox, a team that was embroiled in a tight pennant race with the Yankees. Sox manager Eddie Stanky hated the Yankees as much as anyone who had ever played or managed against them.
Stanky had a rule that if any of the White Sox player spoke to the opposition, it would cost him $100. In a game against the Yankees, Mantle reached first base. Skowron was playing first base and moved to the bag to hold him close.
Mantle started talking to Skowron, who ignored his good friend. Finally, Mantle asked what was going on.
Skowron broke his silence. "Mick, I can't talk. It'll cost me a hundred."
Mantle was flabbergasted.
"What? I made you all that money with the Yankees and you're going to let $100 break up our friendship?"
Skowron smiled sheepishly, turned to the White Sox dugout, where Stanky was standing on the top step, and shouted to the fiery manager,
"Go ahead and fine me! I'm talking to this guy."
Mantle and Skowron both laughed. Stanky fined Skowron.
Bill Skowron joined the Yankees three years after their greatest center fielder, Joe DiMaggio, retired, but the "Moose" knew him. Skowron loves to tell the story of the time DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe invited a group of Yankees out for dinner.
"I was so nervous, I shaved four times that day, Marilyn was a lovely woman, nothing like the characters she played in the movies. She wanted to learn about baseball and asked a lot of good questions."
Mickey Mantel's career was plagued by injuries, but so was Skowron's. He appeared in only 74 games in 1959 due to an injured back. The next spring, a baseball writer questioned him about all the injuries he had suffered since joining the Yankees.
The usually affable, mild-manner Skowron glowered at the reporter, who had suggested that he was "brittle."
At various times, Skowron had a wrenched back, a broken wrist, a separated shoulder, a torn knee, strained ligaments and pulled muscles.
"Brittle, my eye. It's just that I play hard. I always give it everything I've got. They tell me not to run so hard, to keep away from walls and fences. How can I? I only know one way."
Skowron and Mantle both could have been even greater if they had been healthy. Skowron verbalized his frustration to the reporter.
"I just want to have one year when I can go all the way. I'd like to prove to myself just how good I can be. If I can stay in one piece...I think I can hit around .320, hit around 25 home runs, and drive in 90 or 100 runs."
It never happened.
Goddard, Joe. "Tracking Down the Moose." Baseball Digest. Aug. 2003.
Skowron claims he's not brittle. (1960, Apr 24). Daily Boston Globe (1928-1960), pp. 82. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/250878867?accountid=46260
By JOHN DREBINGER Special to The New,York Times. (1962, Dec 15). Skowron refutes latest story; he's still considering retiring. New York Times (1923-Current File), pp. 14-14. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/116273545?accountid=46260