The Sad Story of Dobie Moore

Dobie Moore with Kansas City

Dobie Moore with Kansas City

Baseball is full of those kinds of stories that soar with victory and with perseverance in the face of adversity. Unfortunately there are also stories of foolishness and of just plain bad luck. Then there are tragic stories. The tale of Dobie Moore falls somewhere in the latter set.

Walter Moore was born in Georgia. That’s about all we know for sure about it. Dates of his birth range from 1893 to 1897 with a consensus building around 1896. The location is also obscure, although Atlanta seems to be the best guess. He was illiterate but a good ball player. In 1916 he joined the 25th Infantry Wreckers in Hawaii, the premier black military service team of the era. They were good, winning the island championship several times. By the end of World War I, the Wreckers were in Arizona and played a series of games against a barnstorming team of big leaguers that was led by Casey Stengel. Impressed with the Wreckers, Stengel got in touch with J.L. Wilkinson, owner of the Kansas City Monarchs, and touted several of the Wreckers, including Moore, for Wilkinson’s team.

In 1920 Moore, by now called Dobie (and I’ve been utterly unable to find the origin of the nickname), left the US Army and became the primary shortstop for the Monarchs, one of the founding teams of the Negro National League. He was good from the beginning. Between 1920 and 1925 he never hit below .308. All of Moore’s statistics are from BBREF’s BR Bullpen which seems to get its stats from the information compiled in Shades of Glory, the book written to accompany the 2006 Hall of Fame election of Negro Leaguers.

In 1924, the first Negro World Series was held. The Monarchs represented the Negro National League against Hilldale of the Eastern Colored League. Moore hit .300 with 12 hits in 40 at bats (these stats from SABR) and Kansas City won the Series. They repeated as NNL winners in 1925 but lost a rematch with Hilldale. Moore hit .364 with eight hits, including a double and a triple.

In 1926 he began the season with Kansas City, hitting over .400 in 15 games. Then tragedy struck. There are conflicting stories about exactly what happened, but Moore was shot in the leg by a woman. There is no consensus as to her relationship with Moore. Some say she was his girlfriend, others a hooker, some state she was both. Some indicate he was shot in the leg, then tried to jump off a balcony (to escape another shot) and did further damage to his wounded leg. Whatever happened exactly, he suffered multiple fractures (one source says six) in his leg. It healed poorly and his Negro League career was over. He played a little semi-pro ball, but could never get back to the highest level.

He seems to have disappeared at that point. Some sources indicate he died as early as 1943 in Detroit, but I found a reference to him being held up in an armed robbery in 1948. After that there is no firm date for his death (although the latest date I saw speculated was in the 1960s).

So how good was Dobie Moore? To begin to answer that we have to recognize he was done by at most age 33 (and probably closer to age 30) so he has a shortened career. BBREF stats are available for 1920-1926. They show him with career numbers of a .348 average, .520 slugging percentage, 363 runs, 657 hits, 35 home runs, 308 RBIs, 56 stolen bases, and 114 walks in 470 documented games. The chart gives stats averaged for a 162 game season that gives him 125 runs, 226 hits, 41 doubles, 18 triples, 12 home runs, 106 RBIs, 19 stolen bases, and 39 walks a season. The stats are, as usual, incomplete so it is impossible to judge the totality of his career.

Moore was one of the players included in the 2006 Hall of Fame special election list. He failed to receive enough votes for enshrinement in Cooperstown. His career, along with other Negro Leaguers, is ultimately tragic because of the prevailing segregation of the era, but for Moore there is the further tragedy of losing his career to a shooting.

 

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3 Responses to “The Sad Story of Dobie Moore”

  1. Gary Trujillo Says:

    Unfortunately ballplayers participated in a lot of alcohol-fueled debauchery during that era.

  2. Glen Says:

    Man, where do you come up with all this stuff, V. I’ve got to hand it to you, you sure do your research and you sure write well, too.

    Dobie Moore, I guess, is the black equivalent of Big Ed Delahanty in that the cause of his death is mysterious. Not only the cause, but the who, what, when, where, and why.

    Glen

  3. Steve Myers Says:

    No doubt segregation was wrong and racist and a sick part of our history, but without it, there is no Negro Leagues and its legacy of wondering in the absence of complete stats. I’m thinking Adobe huts had something to do with his nickname. He must have been a hospitable sort of guy. Knew how to throw a party.

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