Happy Birthday, Bob Moose!

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Bob Moose arrived and departed this earth on October 9th.  Born in Export, PA in 1947, Moose was taken in the 18th round by the Pirates right out of Franklin Regional High School.  His dad, Bob Moose, Sr., was a bus driver in Pittsburgh. A multiple sport star in high school, Moose said he wasn’t a huge baseball fan – he didn’t collect baseball cards or worship players – but he really just loved to play baseball.

bob-moose-1972-toppsMoose owned the low level minors.  He went 8 – 2 with a 1.95 ERA in rookie ball with Salem in the Appalachian League.  In fact, his only two losses came in back to back games when Wytheville outfielder Rick Hense hit two game winning homers off him the last week of July.  Moose then covered three levels in two years by going 21 – 8 with five teams in 1966 and 1967.  Among his best outings was a one-hitter over Montgomery – an infield single by Paul Pavelko breaking up the no-hitter in the seventh.  Moving up to Columbus, he opened with a fifteen strikeout performance – his curveball the key to his success.  Moose’s success led to a cup of coffee with the Pirates in September, 1967.  Even there, Moose continued winning – getting two starts and winning his only decision.

After the season, he married his high school sweetheart, Alberta Buriscoe, at St. Mary’s Church in Export and then honeymooned in Florida in advance of spring training.  Sure enough, the confident Moose made the Pirates roster in the bullpen.  Moose, who had grown up just a short ride from Forbes Field, completed a promise he made a friend while watching the Opening Day game in 1965.  “Our high school principal said we could be excused from classes if we had tickets for the Pirate opener,” Moose said.  He told his buddy that afternoon that one day he’d be wearing a Pirates uniform.  Three years after paying to watch the opener, he was getting paid to watch the opener.  Solid work in the pen led to Moose getting a shot at the rotation.  He earned his first win in 1968 by carrying a no-hitter into the eighth inning against the Astros before finishing with a two-hitter.  Going 23 outs before giving up a hit was the longest any pitcher went in the history of Forbes Field before giving up a hit.

Not every start in 1968 went that smoothly – he struck out Richie Allen the first seven times he faced him, but when Allen broke the streak, he homered.  And, toward the end of his rookie season, Moose was caught using pine tar on his throwing hand.  Facing the Cardinals, gave up two runs in first.  Then, he fanned four straight batters.  Manager Red Schoendienst asked umpire Chris Pelekoudas to check Moose’s hand in the third inning after Orlando Cepeda fanned.  “Why he had so much pine tar on his right hand, his fingers stuck together once,” Schoendienst said with a laugh.  “Pelekoudas threw a new ball to Moose once.  When Moose threw it to the batter, the ball looked like somebody had used a paint brush.”

Moose denied it – said it was dirt.  Pirates manager Larry Shepard said he was in the on deck circle in the second inning and took the rag with pine tar and rubbed it all over his right hand.  “He never should have used it, and I don’t know why he did.”  Curt Flood, in describing Moose’s right hand, said, “Why, it looked just like mine.”

Still, it was a fine rookie year.  Throwing 170.2 innings and showing solid control (just 41 walks), Moose went 8 – 12 with a respectable 2.74 ERA (in the year of the pitcher, though), then came back in 1969 to lead the NL in winning percentage (.824) with his 14 – 3 mark.  That year, Moose made 19 starts, threw six complete games, and finished 16 other games in relief.

Asked to explain Moose’s success at such a young age, his road roommate, Gary Kolb, said he was a old 21 and remembered everything about a batter he faced.  His pitching coach, Vern Law, said he was unshakable.  “The thing about Moose,” said Law,” is that nothing bothers him.  Watch him before a game that he is starting.  He isn’t a bit keyed up.  He takes everything in stride.  Some fellows can’t do that when they are over 30.”

He was still a kid, though.  Moose admitted his favorite meal was Mac and Cheese.  “I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner,” he said.

The highlight of his 1969 season was a September no-hitter over the Mets in Shea Stadium.  The day before, his wife watched a doubleheader while seated behind Dustin Hoffman.  Alberta came back the next day and saw her hubby pitch a no-hitter – after the game, Moose told his wife she was going home that night with a real celebrity.  In blanking the Mets, Moose Walked three and fanned six.  In the ninth inning, he went to a full count on pinch hitter Rod Gaspar and then deliberately walked him so as not to allow a hit.  Got next the next three, though, after walking Gaspar.  The last batter was Art Shamsky, who weakly grounded to Dave Cash at second.  The Mets hit him a little, getting four line drives.  However, three were hit right at fielders and the fourth required a Roberto Clemente leaping grab of a Wayne Garrett shot in deep right, right in front of the wall.

Moose would miss time nearly every season – he’d go on a two week stint with the US Marine Reserves.  In 1970, it was the first two weeks of the year and when he came back he was nursing a sore elbow and never seemed to be completely healthy all season – like most of the Pirates staff.  Still, he rebounded to help key a Pirates team that would win the division in 1970.

He was aggressive – with good control and a willingness to throw inside.  He hit Vada Pinson, putting Pinson on the DL with a hairline fracture in his leg.  He broke the finger of Bill Singer who had squared away to bunt.  And, in 1971, he was fined for throwing at Ralph Garr.  On the other hand, a note said that he disliked taking phone calls on road trips – his house was broken into at least twice during the 1971 season – once, robbers took virtually everything of value, including his hunting guns.

The season ended well, though.  On his birthday, he pitched in relief in the first game of the World Series against Baltimore, he lost once in relief and gave a strong effort in game six as a starter only to have the game lost in extra innings.  Thankfully teammate Steve Blass was on his game in game seven, and the Pirates won the World Series.  Bruce Kison was scheduled to get married the next day – broadcaster Bob Prince arranged a helicopter that took Kison and Moose, the best man, quickly to the airport and to the site of the wedding.

In 1972, Moose had a typical successful season – double digit wins, pitching through various ailments and always keeping his team in games.  As the season ended, though, Moose was needed in the bullpen.  In the final game of the 1972 National League Championship Series, he was called on to pitch against the Reds.  Steve Blass was pulled after giving up a homer to Cesar Geronimo.  Then, Dave Giusti gave up a homer to Bench in the ninth to tie the score, and back-to-back hits to George Foster and Denis Menke.  Enter Moose. A long sacrifice fly by Geronimo got Foster to third.  One out later, Hal McRae was batting when one of Moose’s curveballs bounced in front of the plate and skipped by Manny Sanguillen.  Foster raced home from third and the game, and series, was over.

“For about 10 minutes after the game,” Moose said, “the pitch disturbed me.  Then I realized it was just part of the game.”

Alberta worried that he might not be the same, even though his whole life he had always taken things in stride.  Two hours after the game, he got to the hotel.  “The moment I saw him,” Alberta said, “I knew he hadn’t changed.”  In fact, in his first start of the 1973 season, he fired a shutout to beat the Cubs.  Moose handled his bad moment just fine.

Let’s take a break here to give you some Bob Moose trivia.  On August 23, 1972, Moose drew a walk off of Giants pitcher Jim Barr.  He was the last batter to reach base for a while.  Barr set the major league record (since broken) by retiring the next 41 batters he faced.  And, Moose served up Willie McCovey’s 400th homer.

Moose wasn’t always healthy – he had arm issues (elbow, shoulder – once getting a cortisone shot that helped him recover), and he had an operation after the 1973 season to repair a sore knee.  And, he started to adjust his pitching style – early in his career he worked very quickly.  As he got older, he relaxed more – some coaches thought he was taking too much time on the mound.

In 1974, His start to the season was horrific – trying to pitch through pain left him with a 7.57 ERA and a 1 – 5 mark in six starts and a relief appearance.  Throwing in the bullpen that May (after a bad start), he returned to find the problem.

“Take a look at my arm,” Moose told trainer Tony Bartirome.

Bartirome looked at the arm and immediately sent for a doctor.  Moose’s arm was twice its normal size and was discolored.  Moose developed a blood clot that prevented blood from flowing into the arm.

Moose was operated on the next day.  Moose was suffering from a blood clot near his collarbone that required surgery to remove the clot, but cost him a rib.  He still wasn’t out of the woods, though.  Blood was collecting in his lungs.  A few weeks later, he underwent surgery again.

“I’ve been told that the second operation could have become serious if there had been complications,” Moose said.

That winter, he pitched in the Florida Instructional League to get ready for spring training.  “My arm feels better than it did before the operations,” he told reporters.  “The doctor removed layers of scar tissue near the shoulder and my arm feels loose.  I’m not blaming the poor pitching on my arm, but I know that today the arm has a looseness that it hasn’t had for some time.  My ball was moving good in Florida.”

He came back as a reliever in 1975.  Not happy with the limited work, he angrily slammed his thumb in a door following a relief appearance.  After a DL stint, the Pirates asked Moose to go to the minors to get his command back.  At first Moose asked to be traded but decided against it because he liked playing for Pittsburgh.  Because he was a five year veteran, the Pirates needed his permission to go back to minors.  Moose pitched well enough, but was not brought back until after September first, making him ineligible for playoffs.  However, down the stretch Moose pitched well – he got a win in relief, and tossed a three-hitter over Phillies.

bob-moose-1976-toppsNo longer a starter, Moose decided to stay with Pirates and compliment Dave Giusti in the bullpen.  Along with being close to home, he liked that the Pirates were almost always in the playoffs – which meant postseason bonus money.  The Pirates started moving pitchers for other players in the off-season, including sending Ken Brett to New York.  Moose felt his strong finish meant that Brett was sent to the Yankees, and not him.

At issue, though, was the fact that he wouldn’t feel strong the day or two after he pitched.  So, he worked on his fitness for the 1976 season and earned ten saves through the first four months of the season.  He even hit his first homer against Atlanta that June – he got it in the ninth inning against his old teammate and friend, Bruce Dal Canton.  As the year progressed, though, he lost his job to newcomer, Kent Tekulve.  Moose was still valuable, but instead of being the third or fourth starter, or one of the key pitchers out of the bullpen, he finished the 1976 season as pitching depth.  He was likely going to be traded and was nearly included in the trade that sent Richie Zisk to the White Sox.

Not long after the season ended, the team gathered for a golf fundraiser hosted by Bill Mazeroski near Martin’s Ferry, Ohio.  It was Moose’s 29th birthday and Moose was driving back from the hotel to a restaurant to meet his teammates for a party.  Along the way he picked up two women whose car had broken down.  The road on which he traveled was narrow and twisting – and wet from rain.  Driving too quickly for conditions, he lost control of his car and slammed into an oncoming vehicle.  The two women and the other driver were injured but survived.  Moose did not, and he passed away when he should have been celebrating his birthday.  He left behind his wife, Alberta, and a daughter, April, who was now five.

Pirate teammates got together to help the Moose family and create a memorial of sorts for their teammate.  Spearheaded by Al Oliver, the team arranged fundraising events, including basketball games against players on the Steelers, with the goal is to fund April’s education and to establish a scholarship at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pa., where Moose was a student-athlete.

Oliver was always impressed with Moose.  “He always took things in stride,” Oliver said.  “When I was down maybe for not hitting, Moose would find a way to talk to me.  I appreciated that.”  He also appreciated his toughness.  “Moose didn’t go into hiding after that pitch (in 1972 against the Reds).  He walked off the field with his head high.  Later in the clubhouse, he didn’t hide from reporters.  He answered every question and he didn’t alibi.  He was a pro.”

Jim Rooker, possibly his best friend on the team, asked to change number from 19 to Moose’s number 38 starting in 1977.

Having pitched ten years in the majors Moose finished with a 76 – 71 career record, adding 19 saves and seven postseason appearances.  In more than 1300 innings, he walked fewer than 400 batters, and allowed just 75 homers.  Willie Stargell was the leader of the team, but Moose provided much of the toughness and grit that the Pirates showed in the early 1970s when Pittsburgh ruled the NL East.

SOURCES:

Bob Moose Page: Retrosheet.Org

This includes his career Record, some game details as required.

“Moose Top Relief Ace”, The Sporting News, 31 July 1965, Page 41.

“Hense Homers Win Two”, The Sporting News, 7 August 1965, Page 40.

“Bucs and Giants Each Put 8 Kids on Topps Stars”, The Sporting News, 6 December 1965, Page 38.

“Moose Misses Chance”, The Sporting News, 15 July 1967, Page 47.

“Moose Whiffs 15”, The Sporting News, 26 August 1967, Page 32.

Biederman, Les. “Corsairs’ Trio Will Earn $300,000”, The Sporting News, 3 February 1968.

Biederman, Les. “Moose, Patek Lining Up for Buc Bouquets”, The Sporting News, 6 July 1968, Page 13.

“Two Near Perfectos at Forbes Field”, The Sporting News, 6 July 1968, Page 13.

“Richie Whiffs 7 Times – Then Makes Moose Pay”, The Sporting News, 28 July 1968, Page 17.

Biederman, Les. “Moose Brought Down By Pine Tar Charge”, The Sporting News, 11 September 1968, Page 25.

Biederman, Les. “Bucs’ Shepard Counts Up His Blessings”, The Sporting News, 23 November 1968, Page 46.

Russo, Neal. “Bing Smiling Through Tears As Bird Boat Takes On Water”, The Sporting News, 17 May 1969, Page 15.

Feeney, Charley. “Moose Just Kid, Acts Like Vet”, The Sporting News, 20 September 1969, Page 19.

Feeney, Charley. “Moose Just Kid, Acts Like Vet”, The Sporting News, 4 October 1969, Page 5.

Feeney, Charley. “Moose May Be Leader Corsairs Need”, The Sporting News, 27 June 1970, Page 5.

Feeney, Charley. “Stargell’s Swat Spree Marks End of Bat Nap”, The Sporting News, 15 August 1970, Page 9.

“Singer on LA Hospital List With Broken Finger”, The Sporting News, 29 August 1970, Page 13.

Feeney, Charley. “Walker Hopes to Prevent Buccos From Walking Plank”, The Sporting News, 4 September 1971, Page 5.

“Kison Gets Assist to Wedding With Assist From Prince”, The Sporting News, 30 October 1971, Page 16.

Feeney, Charley. “Moose Carries No Scars From Wild Pitch”, The Sporting News, 25 November 1972, Page 50.

Feeney, Charley. “‘Even Hair Curlers Rear Ugly Head in Bucs’ Domestic Life”, The Sporting News, 1 September 1973, Pages 14, 18

“Caught on the Fly”, The Sporting News, 20 October 1973, Page 28.

Feeney, Charley. “Buc Hurlers Get an Able Tutor: Osborn”, The Sporting News, 24 November 1971, Page 38.

“N.L. Flashes”, The Sporting News, 15 June 1974, Page 22.

Feeney, Charley. “Bucs’ Camp to Be Comeback Center”, The Sporting News, 30 November 1974, Page 45.

Feeney, Charley. “Bucs’ Bob Moose Certain Arm Misery is Behind Him”, The Sporting News, 4 January 1975, Page 39.

Feeney, Charley. “Moose Wins Bucs’ Reprieve on Fast Finish”, The Sporting News, 18 October 1975, Page 20, 24.

Feeney, Charley. “Start and Relieve – Bucs’ Scheme for Moose”, The Sporting News, 27 March 1976, Page 37.

“Obituaries”, The Sporting News, 23 October 1976, Page 70.

Dozer, Richard. “Chisox Sowed Zisk Trade Seeds in September”, The Sporting News, 1 January 1977, Page 45.

Feeney, Charley. “Pirate Scholarship to Keep Moose Memory Green”, The Sporting News, 8 January 1977, Page 36.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s