SABR

Dee Moore

This article was written by Terry Bohn.

Dee Moore’s major-league career consisted of less than 100 games with three teams, spread over four seasons spanning 11 years. A career .232 hitter, he was characterized not by his ability but by his versatility. During his 98 major-league games, Moore pinch-hit, played left field, first base, and third base, and pitched and caught. Other than players who played each of the nine defensive positions for one inning as a gimmick, Moore was one of the few major leaguers who pitched and caught in the same game.

On September 27, 1936, two weeks after his call-up by the Cincinnati Reds, Moore was the starting pitcher against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. He pitched two scoreless innings and then donned his catcher’s gear and worked behind the plate the last seven innings of the game. The “one-man team,” as he was called, was also the hitting star in the 6-5 Reds win, smacking two doubles and a single in four at-bats.

D.C. Moore1 was born April 6, 1914, in Hedley, Texas, a small town near Amarillo in the state’s northern panhandle. His parents were Paul (D.P.) and Mamie (his mother’s name was spelled Mayme in his obituary) Adamson Moore. He was an only child and of Scots-Irish ancestry. By the 1920 Census the family had relocated to Wichita Falls, Texas, and sometime soon after that moved to Southern California. Dee attended Jacob Riis High School in Los Angeles where he starred on the school’s baseball team, pitching two no-hitters.

Primarily a catcher during his major-league career, Moore started out as a pitcher and signed his first professional contract with the Chicago Cubs in 1933. He was assigned to Los Angeles of the Pacific Coast League, where he appeared in just four games. Needing more seasoning, the next year he was sent to Ponca City (Oklahoma) in the Class C Western Association, where he hit .333 in 41 games. In order to get his potent bat into the lineup more often, manager Roy Johnson began to use him as a catcher and at other positions between turns in the pitching rotation.

Moore played briefly for Los Angeles again in 1934, as well as in Portland. He returned to Ponca City in 1935 and began to show his ability both on the mound and behind the plate, making 16 pitching appearances (12-3), catching in 73 games, and again hitting over .300. His success earned him a promotion to Indianapolis of the American Association, where he played in four games at the end of the season.

Moore had been acquired by the Cincinnati organization and had a stellar season with Macon in the South Atlantic (Sally) League in 1936. He led the league in batting (.335) and home runs (18) and continued to pitch as well, going 4-2 in eight games. As an example of his versatility in the field, on August 12 against Columbus, Moore played the outfield in the first game of a doubleheader. In the nightcap, he went to the mound and threw a seven-inning no-hitter. The next day he was back in his more familiar catching position.

On September 5 Moore was sold to Cincinnati for $5,000 and reported to the Reds at the end of the Sally League season. He made his major-league debut on September 12, 1936, as a pinch-hitter against the Philadelphia Phillies. Moore relieved starter Paul Derringer in the first game of a doubleheader against Pittsburgh on September 20, allowing just one hit in five innings. He recorded his first major-league hit, a pinch RBI triple, in the nightcap off Pirate pitcher Red Lucas.

In March 1937 Moore married Gladys Whitley, a native of Nashville, in Tampa, Florida. A year later, during spring training in 1938, it was reported Moore had been served with divorce papers. A couple of weeks later the suit was dismissed when the couple settled their differences amicably. But the union didn’t last long; later that year they legally separated, and they divorced in August 1939.

Moore went to spring training with the Reds in 1937. Although he played well, Ernie Lombardi was entrenched as the starting catcher, so Moore was optioned to Nashville of the Southern Association. Cincinnati manager Charley Dressen wanted him to concentrate on catching. After 33 games with Nashville, Moore was promoted to Syracuse of the International League. That season he was behind the plate when teammate Paul Moore (no relation) threw a no-hitter for Syracuse. At the time it was claimed that Dee was the only player in professional baseball to have pitched and caught no-hit games.2

After the Chiefs’ season ended, Moore got a September call-up by Cincinnati, and played in seven games for the Reds. He spent the entire 1938 season with Syracuse again, batting .278 in 130 games. After the season Syracuse ended its working relationship with Cincinnati, and Indianapolis of the American Association became the Reds’ top farm club. Moore played for Indianapolis in 1939, managed by former big-league catcher and future Hall of Famer Ray Schalk. Moore started 1940 with Indianapolis but was sent to the Birmingham Barons in the Southern Association for the rest of the season.

Moore may have had his best chance to return to the major leagues, and cash in on World Series money, in 1940 when the Reds’ regular catcher, Willard Hershberger committed suicide in August of that year. But Moore was never considered for a call-up to Cincinnati as it was reported that he had “fallen out of favor” with manager Bill McKechnie. After the season, on October 6, Moore married Vaudine Wilson in Ashville, Georgia

Moore started the 1941 season with Birmingham, but continued his downward spiral, being sent to the Anniston (Alabama) Rams in the Class B Southeastern League later in the year. There he was the team’s regular catcher, hitting .337 with 20 home runs, and found time to pitch in ten games. Late in the season Aniston manager Dick Porter resigned and recommended Moore as his replacement. Moore was initially reluctant, but convinced that he might not get another chance to play in the major leagues, he decided to give managing a try.

Moore was back with Anniston in 1942, again piloting the Rams and catching and pitching when needed. In late July he was sold to New Orleans, a St. Louis Cardinals farm team. Moore batted .304 in 47 games for the Pelicans. In what was described as his first official act after being named general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, on November 2, 1942, Branch Rickey drafted Moore from New Orleans for $6,000.3 He was expected to bolster Brooklyn’s two-man catching staff of starter Mickey Owen and backup Billy Sullivan.

Moore could credit wartime manpower shortages for his return to the major leagues. During World War II, personnel decisions were often made as much on a player’s draft status as his playing ability. Rickey was impressed with Moore’s versatility, but the move was made more because he expected his two prized catching prospects at the Dodgers Montreal farm team to be drafted at any time. Although Moore was childless, Rickey mistakenly thought he had two children when he drafted him. Moore was classified 3-A, which meant deferment as long as possible, and he was less likely to be called into the service than the two Montreal catchers.

Before spring training in 1943, Billy Sullivan retired, and Moore became the backup to Owen in Brooklyn. Manager Leo Durocher said, “I’m perfectly satisfied with my catching staff as it is. This Moore has shown me power and poise at the plate, and I don’t believe there’s a catcher in the majors who can outthrow him.”4 Another time Durocher said of Moore “He has a lot of power with the bat too, and I expect him to be a big help to us.”5

Moore credited his return to the major leagues to a “personal reformation” and now being “on the straight and narrow path.” He was quoted as saying he “kicked away [my] chances of sticking in the majors because of bad habits,”6 although other than references to a hot temper, he was not specific about what those bad habits might have been. Another report said that Moore was “too unstable off the field to draw a major league nibble elsewhere.”7 Guidance and a “sermon” from Branch Rickey played a part in Moore’s reformation. Rickey said, “I promised him a chance in the majors if he behaved himself. He did and … I’m carrying out my part of the bargain.”8

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Moore was often described as “burly” or “stocky.” A common theme throughout his career was that major-league teams kept sending him to the minors with instructions to work on his catching exclusively, but that his minor-league managers took advantage of his versatility and willingness to play wherever needed. Moore’s ability to hit in the big leagues was never questioned, but because the “Jack of all trades” so often played other positions, he never developed the defensive skills necessary to hold down a regular major-league catching job.

Besides backing up Owen and being the Dodgers’ leading pinch-hitter, Moore also filled in at third base when regular Frenchy Bordagaray was injured. On July 9 pitcher Bobo Newsom was suspended for three day after a dispute with Durocher. All of the Dodgers players, including team leaders Billy Herman, Arky Vaughn, and Dixie Walker, sided with Newsom and they announced that they would strike. The next day, before a scheduled game with Pittsburgh, Durocher took a vote to see if he had enough players to suit up for the game. All of the Dodgers chose to play with the exception of Vaughn and the already suspended Newsom.9

During this incident, Rickey backed Durocher completely, and soon he began unloading many of the players involved in the revolt. Moore was one of the affected players, being sold to the Philadelphia Phillies for the $7,500 waiver price on July 19. However, his impending draft status may have played a larger role in his move to Philadelphia than any repercussions from the clubhouse revolt.

After playing in 31 games for the Dodgers, Moore played in 37 games for Philadelphia before being inducted into the Marine Corps in September 1943. He was assigned to the Marine base in San Diego, where he continued to play baseball. The following year he was assigned to the Fleet Marine Force in Hawaii and quickly established himself as one of the island’s top players. Continuing his versatile style of play, Moore pitched, caught, and played third base. He threw a one-hit shutout and in another game beat former major leaguer Hugh Casey 3-2 in 11 innings.10

Moore was discharged from the Marines in May 1946 but remained in Hawaii until early 1947. He went to spring training with the Phillies in 1947, but was released on April 4. He quickly signed on with the Sacramento Salons of the Pacific Coast League and had another strong season, batting .301 in 57 games. He set a league record by getting six pinch hits in a row. Back with Sacramento in 1948, Moore hit .309 in 113 games. Early in 1949 the Solons traded Moore to San Diego of the PCL, and he batted.316 that season and .281 in 127 games in 1950. After the ’50 season he was the playing manager of Tijuana in the Mexican Coast League. In early April of 1951 Moore was released by San Diego and joined the Carver Athletic Club, a semipro team in Seattle.11 Later that summer he signed on as player-manager with Mexicali of the Class C Southwest International League.

The next year, 1952, Moore was back with the Cincinnati organization, managing the Odgen (Utah) club in the Class C Pioneer league. Apparently he was still married as it was reported that Mrs. Moore would be joining her husband in Utah. The couple’s permanent home was in Sacramento, California; a Mrs. Dee C. Moore was listed in that city’s 1949 directory. No record could be found of any subsequent divorce or whether the couple had children.

At Ogden the 38-year-old Moore continued to play, batting .326 in 190 at-bats and going 4-0 pitching in 11 games, But after a last-place finish, he was let go after the season by Cincinnati farm director Gabe Paul. In early 1953 Moore signed on as a bullpen catcher with Hollywood in the PCL but by June found himself in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as player-manager with the local entry in the semipro Manitoba-Dakota (Man-Dak) League. The next season he had the same role with the Brandon (Manitoba) Grays. He returned to Organized Baseball the next year, 1955, managing Visalia in the California League, a job that reportedly was first offered to Joe DiMaggio. Now over 40 years old, Moore also played in 115 games, batting .323. In 1956 he returned to the Manitoba-Dakota League, piloting the Williston (North Dakota) Oilers to the league championship.

After that season Moore retired from baseball and remained in Williston, where he lived the rest of his life. He married Jeanette Studsrud, a Williston native, on April 12, 1957. He worked as an assistant manager at a local motel until he retired in 1981. Dee and Jeanette had been married 26 years at the time of her death in 1983. They had no children.

Moore lived quietly as a widower in Williston the rest of his life. He enjoyed watching sports on television and playing golf. He was a member of the Elks and Moose clubs, the VFW, the American Legion, and the Williston Country Club. In his final years he was a resident of the Bethel Lutheran Home, a nursing facility.

Dee died on July 2, 1997, at the age of 83 and was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Williston. He was survived by a sister-in-law, a brother-in-law, and an aunt in California.

 

Sources

New Orleans Times-Picayune

Deseret News (Salt Lake City)

Portland Oregonian

Rockford (Illinois) Morning Star

Seattle Daily Times

Williston (North Dakota) Daily Herald, July 3, 1997 (Moore’s obituary)

http://ancestry.com

http://baseball-reference.com

http://familysearch.org

Baseball Hall of Fame (Moore’s file)

 

Notes

1 D. C. was Moore’s given name. No birth record was found, but an amendment to a Texas birth certificate dated March 12, 1970, indicated that his full name was D.C. Moore. Apparently naming children with initials was a Moore family tradition. His father, Paul, went by D.P. Moore. Dee claimed his paternal grandfather’s name was also D.C.

2 Clipping from Moore’s Hall of Fame file dated July 11, 1938 (source unknown).

3 New Orleans Times-Picayune, November 3, 1942.

4 New Orleans Times-Picayune, March 19, 1943.

5 Deseret News, Salt Lake City, April 1, 1943.

6 Rockford (Illinois) Morning Star, June 6, 1943.

7 Portland Oregonian, April 11, 1943.

8 Ibid.

9 Arky Vaughn biography, SABR BioProject (http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/4e00be9b)

11 Seattle Daily Times, June 15, 1951.

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