Wilcy Moore played a unique role in the history of baseball and it could be argued he deserves to be in the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. He was a key player on the 1927 New York Yankees (the greatest baseball team of all time) and won the clinching game in the World Series. He also played on the 1924 Okmulgee Drillers, a team that’s considered the 49th greatest minor league team in history.
Moore was born in Texas but moved at an early age to Hollis, OK. He helped his father on the family farm and began playing semi-pro baseball. He started his professional career at 25 years old, that’s ancient when you consider most pro ball players at that time began playing in their late teens.
1921 Ardmore Snappers. Wilcy Moore is in the top row, fourth from the right (courtesy: Steve Sheid)
Moore’s first pro team was in Paris, TX where Earl “Red” Snapp was his manager. The following year Snapp managed the Ardmore Snappers and Moore joined him on the pitching staff. Moore appeared in 37 games with the Snappers and went 19-9.
Wilcy Moore and an Ardmore Snappers teammate (courtesy: Steve Sheid)
For the next few years he would play with several minor league teams including in Fort Worth, TX and Okmulgee. He won 17 games on the mound for the ’24 Drillers.
Moore eventually found himself in Greenville, South Carolina. According to the Society for American Baseball Research, Moore broke his arm off a batted ball. The break would eventually lead to his path on the New York Yankees. When Moore came back after the injury he couldn’t throw overhand and began throwing sidearm. The unique delivery gave the ball a wicked spin. In 1926, Moore went 30-4 with the Spinners and had an ERA less than 3. He also won 17 games in a row and struck out 112 batters.
His success on the diamond got the attention of the New York Yankees and, despite Moore being 29 years old, paid Greenville $3,500 for the rights to sign the Oklahoma farmer. Moore signed a contract with the Yankees on February 21, 1927 for $2,500. He was also to get a bonus of $500 if he’s on the Yankees roster if they win the ’27 World Series.
1927 New York Yankees. Wilcy Moore is standing in the top row, fourth from the left, to the right of Moore is Babe Ruth
The 1927 New York Yankees are considered the greatest baseball team of all time. The team was called Murderers’ Row thanks to its first six hitters of Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, and Tony Lazzeri.
Moore quickly earned a reputation of being excellent in relief thanks to his unique sinker ball. According to SABR, he appeared in 50 games for the Yankees as a reliever and a starting pitcher. He went 19-7, had the lowest ERA in the American League at 2.28, and set a Yankees record with a league leading 13 saves. That record would hold for another 12 years.
Wilcy Moore (courtesy; Steve Sheid)
One of Moore’s closest friends on the team was none another Babe Ruth. Moore’s grandson, Steve Sheid, says that Moore was in charge of Ruth’s wallet when the players would go out on the town after the games. Ruth was quite the partier and trusted Moore to keep an eye on his money!! Ruth and Moore also made a unique bet that year. Wilcy was a great pitcher but couldn’t hit very well at all. So Moore bet Ruth $300 that he would get at least three hits during the season. On August 26th in Detroit Moore got his third hit of the season and won $300 from Ruth. When the season was over Moore bought two mules with the money and named one of the mules Babe and the other Ruth.
Wilcy with his mules, Babe and Ruth (courtesy Steve Sheid)
The Yankees played the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. Moore made a relief appearance in game one of the series but, with the Yankees up 3 games to none, Moore was the starting pitcher in game four. He pitched a complete game and got the victory for the Yankees to claim the world championship.
Check out what legendary manager John McGraw said about Moore in the Washington Post (courtesy of SABR) “To me the outstanding feature of the last game which won the world’s championship was the steadiness of Wilcy Moore’s pitching. It wasn’t so much the kind of stuff he used but the fact that he was cool and calculating all the way, and knew exactly what what he was trying to do.” “It is quite a strain”, McGraw continued,” on the average young fellow to be shoved into a critical game like that, but more is no kid. He has seen enough of life to know that there is no use in getting excited about anything. He simply took his time and gave them the best he had. It was a remarkable exhibition of steadiness.”
1927 was the highlight of Moore’s career. His pitching wasn’t near as good the next season and he was eventually sent to St. Paul, MN. Moore put up better numbers in St. Paul and was signed by the Boston Red Sox for the 1931 season. He was with the Red Sox for two years and won 15 games before being traded back to the Yankees in time for the 1932 World Series against the Chicago Cubs.
Wilcy Moore with the Boston Red Sox (courtesy: Steve Sheid)
The ’32 World Series is famous for Babe Ruth’s supposed called shot. Legend has it that in the fifth inning of game three with the scored tied at 4, Ruth was up to bat and getting heckled by the Cubs bench when he pointed to centerfield. He took a strike and then reportedly gestured again. He hit the next pitch over the centerfield wall for one of the most famous home runs in history. In reality it’s not sure if Ruth was pointing to centerfield, the Cub’s pitcher, orthe Cubs dugout. Wilcy Moore’s grandson, Steve Sheid, tells us that he talked about the incident with his grandmother (Wilcy’s wife) who was at the game. Sheid says his grandmother claims that Ruth never called his shot and isn’t even sure that he made any kind of gesture at all!! Certainly doesn’t solve the mystery but the thought that Oklahoman Wilcy Moore was right there is fascinating!!
Moore pitched for the Yankees again in 1933 but only won five games. He was sent down to Newark after the ’33 season and spent the next seven years bouncing around the minor leagues with stops in Newark and Kansas City among others. He retired from professional baseball in 1940 and spent the rest of his life farming cotton in Hollis. He passed away on March 29, 1963 at 65 years old.
Wilcy Moore is an Oklahoman who deserves to be honored for his place in baseball history. The odds were against him when he started pro ball at an older age than his competitors but he was the star relief pitcher of the ’27 Yankees, played with the biggest names in baseball on the greatest team in history, and a Yankee record holder for 12 years.
Here’s to you Wilcy! Thank you for being an inspiration!!
(courtesy Steve Sheid)