Bill ‘Moose’ Skowron, 1930–2012
The Yankees’ All-Star first baseman
Baseball player Bill Skowron’s imposing presence in the batter’s box might have been enough to justify his famous nickname, Moose. But in fact he earned it as a scrawny elementary school kid on Chicago’s Northwest Side. After his grandfather gave the boy a particularly short haircut, neighborhood wags thought he bore an uncanny resemblance to Italy’s bald dictator, Benito Mussolini. Skowron’s nickname became a beloved cry of the fans during his long career at first base with the New York Yankees, whom he helped propel to seven World Series.
Skowron, the son of a Chicago garbage collector, was a gifted athlete in many sports, said the Chicago Tribune, starting with marble-shooting, for which he won the citywide championship at age 11. As a high school basketball and football star, he was courted by Notre Dame to play football. But having developed a love for baseball, he instead went to Purdue, which let him play two sports. There he not only kicked a record 82-yard punt, but also batted .500 as a sophomore, and soon the Yankees came calling.
After a few years in the minors, Skowron became the Yankees’ regular first baseman in 1955, said the New York Daily News, and manned that post until 1962, playing alongside such greats as Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, and Mickey Mantle. His grand-slam home run in the seventh game of the 1956 World Series secured the Yankees’ victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers; two years later, against the Milwaukee Braves, he hit “a decisive three-run eighth-inning homer off Yankee-killer Lew Burdette for the 6–2 Game 7 win.”
Skowron went on to help the Los Angeles Dodgers sweep the Yankees in the 1963 World Series, and ended his career with his hometown White Sox. But his former New York teammates remembered him as “a loyal Yankee,” said Newsday. He helped the team’s first African-American player, Elston Howard, find a place to live, and “was one of the few people” Mantle insisted on seeing after learning he was dying. “There weren’t many better guys than Moose,” Yogi Berra told the New York Post. “He was a dear friend and a great team man.”