Bob Moose Pittsburgh Pirates Pitcher

Bob Moose Pittsburgh Pirates Pitcher
Bob Moose, 1967-1976

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Memories of Moose" article (by request)

Memories of Moose By Bob Cupp, FOR THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW Friday, April 27, 2007 Whenever he was asked what he wanted to do when he grew up, little Bobby Moose always responded, "I'm going to play baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates." After all, he started playing ball for the White Valley Pirates in the Franklin Township Little League in 1955 when he was 7 years old. In 1967, at the age of 19, he fulfilled the dream he shared with countless Western Pennsylvania Little Leaguers: He became a Pittsburgh Pirate. His mother, Molly Moose, fondly recalls: "Bobby's first uniform was so big on him I had to cut a section out of the pants legs so they wouldn't drag on the ground. Before every game, his grandmother made him polenta, an Italian corn meal mush dish, to help him play better. When Bobby was growing up, we attended all his games. We never went on vacation because Bobby would be playing ball. Needless to say, we've been to a lot of baseball games." White Valley is located east of Export along old William Penn Highway. In those days, White Valley dominated the Franklin Township Little League. The team lost only one game in four years of league competition. Bobby Moose played Little League ball for six years, developing into the most feared and respected pitcher in the district. When Moose pitched, opposing teams considered it a successful outing if they avoided a shutout. Moose's outstanding pitching performances continued through Pony League, Export Legion and Franklin Area (now Franklin Regional) High School baseball. Ed Washburn, one of Moose's Franklin teammates, recalls: "It seemed like Moose pitched every game, but his arm never got tired." After throwing three high school no-hitters and suffering only two losses in four years, Bob Moose graduated from high school, much to Franklin's WPIAL opponents' delight. After all this time, the Little Leaguers, Pony Leaguers, Legion and high school players who batted against him have clear memories of a common experience -- striking out against Bob Moose. One Delmont Little League competitor recalls reaching base safely twice against Moose -- once hit by a pitch and once again after a two-foot "blast" in front of home plate that the catcher bobbled for an error. Unfortunately for his Delmont Lions team, he didn't advance beyond first base. Also playing varsity football and basketball, Moose was one of the finest athletes who ever attended Franklin. During football games, he was always on the field, playing halfback, safety, punter and kicker. He also returned kickoffs and punts. As a senior in a 1964 game against Richland, he scored four touchdowns, running for 157 yards on 15 carries -- more than 10 yards a carry. Known for his drop-kicking ability, he also kicked two extra points in that game. In 1965, Bob Moose was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. His father, Robert R. Moose Sr., vividly remembers the event. "Bob graduated from high school on Wednesday and left that Saturday for Salem, Va., to play ball," his father explained. Spending his rookie year in the Appalachian League, he was named to the rookie all-star team. On Aug. 3, 1965, Moose made his first exhibition appearance at Forbes Field. He was called up to the parent club to pitch in the annual HYPO (Help Young Players Organize) game in support of sandlot baseball. Only two months after his high school graduation, he started the game and pitched three shutout innings against the Cleveland Indians. He spent 1966 at the Pirates' minor league Class A affiliates, Gastonia and Raleigh, advancing to Columbus in the International League and Macon in the Southern League for the 1967 season. After an overall minor league pitching record of 29-10, Moose made his major league debut against the Houston Astros, pitching five strong innings on Sept. 19, 1967, three weeks shy of his 20th birthday. His next start resulted in a complete game for his first win. He was in the big leagues to stay. The young Pirates hurler threw three shutouts and won the Jack Hernon Memorial Award for his selection as the 1968 Pirate Rookie of the Year. In 1969, he won 14 and lost three, posting the highest winning percentage (.824) in the league with a 2.91 ERA. The only thing that slowed him down that year was a two-week Marine Corps Reserves summer camp obligation. After only two full seasons, the White Valley native established himself as one of the top pitchers in the National League. Moose was involved in two of the most memorable games in Pirates history. On Sept. 20, 1969, he threw a no-hitter, beating the eventual world champion Mets 4-0 at New York. It was the first no-hitter by a Pirates pitcher since 1959 when Harvey Haddix threw 12 perfect innings at Milwaukee, only to lose in the 13th inning. Moose struck out six, including all three batters he faced in the eighth inning. Roberto Clemente saved the no-hitter with a leaping, one-handed grab of Wayne Garrett's line drive to the right field wall in the sixth inning. Pinch-hitter Rod Gaspar opened the ninth with a walk, but the Mets couldn't hit the ball out of the infield and the final three outs were recorded in order. The Pirates poured out of the dugout, mobbing Moose on the mound in celebration of his rare accomplishment. The second memorable game didn't have a good ending. Moose is generally remembered as the Pirates pitcher who threw the wild pitch that permitted the Cincinnati Reds to score the winning run in the 1972 National League Championship game. However, it must be noted that Dave Giusti gave up the home run to Johnny Bench that tied the game. Moose was brought in to pitch out of a jam with two runners on base and no outs. He recorded two easy outs before throwing the pitch that got away, allowing George Foster to score from third. Had it not been for that pitch, he would likely have been remembered as a hero. "Bob Moose" is also the answer to a tough baseball trivia question. In the history of Forbes Field, a no-hitter was never recorded there. Who was the pitcher who came closest? In June 1968, Pirates rookie, Bob Moose, went 7 2/3 innings before surrendering a hit to the Houston Astros. Only 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighing 185 pounds, Moose possessed a fine breaking pitch, a live fast ball, a slider, a changeup and excellent control. He credited Vernon Law with conditioning him to know the hitters better instead of just trying to throw it by them. Law taught him to finesse the batters, making them hit his pitch instead of their pitch. With 11 wins and seven losses during the 1971 season, Moose helped the Pirates win the World Series. He pitched five solid innings in the sixth game against future Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, and also made two relief appearances. Adversity was no stranger to Bob Moose. In 1974, he suffered a potentially career-ending injury and underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from his right shoulder. It was necessary to remove a rib to free up a compressed vein that was causing the problem, and he missed the last four months of the season. Showing the heart and determination that were always his trademarks, he recovered to pitch again the following year. However, he missed more action with a severely injured right thumb. After being sent to the minors for rehabilitation, he returned to the Pirates just in time to play an important role in their September 1975 pennant drive. Leading the 1976 Pirates in saves with 10, he appeared ready to fill Dave Giusti's role as stopper when tragedy struck. Moose was killed in an automobile accident in Martin's Ferry, Ohio, on Oct. 9, 1976. Ironically, it was his 29th birthday. He left behind a loving wife, Alberta Durisco Moose, who was also his high school sweetheart, and young daughter, April. Moose's lifetime major league record was 76-71 with a 3.50 ERA and 35 complete games. He had 11 or more wins in five straight seasons (1969-73) and threw more than 200 innings twice. But statistics simply don't tell the whole story. Moose was admired and respected by teammates, coaches, opponents and fans. Pirates Manager Danny Murtaugh described Moose as a "warm, vibrant human being who was always in the midst of the pregame and postgame activities." A commemorative plaque is displayed in the lobby of the Franklin Regional High School gym honoring Bob Moose's extraordinary accomplishments. The school recently nominated the 1965 graduate for induction into the new WPIAL Hall of Fame. Each WPIAL member school was allowed only one nomination. The inaugural class will be announced at a news conference in May. Regardless of the outcome, Moose will always be remembered as a great competitor who played with pride, confidence and style

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