The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

OCTOBER    2006

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







The Forgotten Reprieve

By Jerry Keys

Sometimes as fans we make players out to be heroes, idols, and immortals.  Growing up I was guilty of it too.  Thousands upon thousands of fans a generation before me never dreamt Mickey Mantle would die.  He was supposed to be eternal, signing autographs, posing for pictures, and sipping ale with the guys.

I never thought any of my heroes would ever die; or at least if they were to, they would live to be 100.  I watched grown men cry when the "Mick", "Joltin' Joe", and "Campy" died.  I knew they were legends from a time before me.

As I aged, I began seeing some of my own heroes passing away.  It just seemed like yesterday Willie "Pops" Stargell led the '79 Pirates to a World Series triumph; Tug McGraw was making laughable comments (when asked

Jerry Keys

what he preferred better, grass or astroturf, Tug replied "I don't know, I've never smoked Astroturf"), and Kirby Puckett carried the Twins to a seventh game in the classic '91 Series.

In the last 10-15 years, baseball players have been placed under an enormous amount of pressure to succeed.  We (and me included) expect every player making over a million dollars per year to put up Ruthian-type numbers.  With high salaries and high expectations comes a great amount of pressure to be the best. 

Every seasoned baseball fan knows that some players live up to their billing and some don't.  The ones that don't, we just take for granted they bow out gracefully and become minor

league instructors, or find greater success in other lines of work.

For the most part, they do.  Sometimes the elusive dream they missed out on haunts them for the rest of their lives.  From time to time, we hear about those; usually being wrapped up in drug addiction.

Donnie Moore with pitching coach Rene Lacheman after the
'86 ALCS loss.

It is an extremely rare occasion that we hear about players taking their own life.  Astonishingly there have been at least two confirmed suicides (according to documentation) in each decade since the 1880's.  Of the roughly 80 cases of "confirmed" suicides, I have heard of a handful over all my years of baseball research.  But I knew of one, up close.

I had seen this player numerous times, if you count screaming his name from the stands, I knew him on a personal basis.  He played part of his career with our hometown Atlanta Braves.

Donnie Moore began his career in 1973, being drafted by the Chicago Cubs as the 3rd pick overall in the amateur draft (was drafted a year earlier by the Red Sox but did not sign).  Moore made his major league debut in 1975 and spent time with the Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers (he was once traded for Mike Tysonů).

Moore was then traded to Atlanta and saw limited action in 1982-83 as a middle reliever.  He became Atlanta's top closer in '84 and possibly for years to come.  In December of '84, the Braves signed one of the two "top tier" relievers (Quisenberry was the other) in baseball, Bruce Sutter ('06 Hall of Famer). 

The momentum Moore had gained in Atlanta caught the eye of California Angels brass.  Moore enjoyed a breakout season in '85 (appeared in the All-Star game) with 31 saves.

The 1986 Angels had all the ingredients to win the Series.  They wrapped up the AL West and faced the Red Sox in the ALCS.  The first two games at Fenway (Boston) were split and the Angels had taken the first two at home (therefore the Angels were up 3 games to 1 in best of 7 series).

I still remember seeing the Sports Illustrated cover "Winning with Passion and Power", and Bobby Grich high-fiving Doug DeCinces.  The Angels had rallied to tie the score in the 9th with three runs and won it in the 11th.

The stage was set for the Angels to wrap up the Series at home, in five games.  The score was 5-2, bottom of the ninth.  3 outs away.

Starter Mike Witt allowed a leadoff single and a two-run homer and recorded two outs.  One out remaining and the Angels are awarded their first World Series berth in history.  Gary Lucas replaces Witt and promptly hits the one batter he faces.

Enter relief ace Donnie Moore.  Moore serves up a two-run homer to Dave Henderson.  Most fans too young to remember the 1986 ALCS think that Dave's homer won the series. 

The Angels did tie the score in the bottom half of the inning and had the bases loaded with one out and the two Sports Illustrated cover-boys were due up.  The Angels fail to score and Boston wins it in the 11th.  The Red Sox jump out to a 7-2 lead after three innings and cruise to a 10-4 win.  In the deciding game 7, Boston jumped out to a 7-0 lead after the 4th and won the game and Series 8-1.  Moore pitched a 1-2-3 8th inning.

We all know about the historic '86 World Series between the Red Sox and Mets.  Everybody remembers Bill Buckner's error.  And Boston's "Curse" lived on.  Every time the Red Sox choked in the post-season, a highlight reel would appear soon after.  It would include Bucky Dent's '78 home run, Bob Gibson's '67 World Series dominance of the Sox, and to pour salt in the wound for the Sox fans, some would show Henderson's homer against Moore followed by Buckner's gaff in the World Series.

Moore spent the next two years with the Angels, seeing limited duty and collecting a handful of saves.  The Angels released him in August of '88.  His final two years were filled with consistent boos from the fans, questions from Angel brass about his subsequent arm issues, and comments about his desire to play.

Moore had just received his first big-money contract at the beginning of the '86 season.  He was seemingly extremely hard on him self for allowing the Henderson home run.  Conflicting accounts arise after his release.  Some speculate that he was rehabbing an injury, some say he developed a substance abuse problem, others say he just needed time to clear his head.

Reports indicate on July 19, 1989, Moore "at his home in Anaheim, California drew a gun, shot and critically wounded his wife, Tonya, with whom police say he had been arguing, and then shot and killed himself. Moore, 35, had been released on June 12 by the Kansas City Royals' minor league affiliate in Omaha."

Friends of Moore issued accounts of him being besieged by memories of the two-strike, two-out, ninth-inning home run he gave up to Henderson.  Adding that if he had retired Henderson, the Angels would have faced the Mets in the World Series and quite possibly brought home a World Series trophy.

In 2004, Bill Buckner was finally given a reprieve when the Red Sox picked themselves up off of the floor and swept the mighty Yankees after being down three games to none and sweeping St. Louis to win the World Series and "86ing" the "Curse of the Bambino".

Two years earlier, the Angels (then renamed Anaheim) rebounded from a 5-0 deficit in the 7th inning of game six to win 6-5 and force a game seven of the '02 World Series.  The Angels defeated the San Francisco Giants 4-1 to capture their first World Series in history!

There was little if any mention of a reprieve for Moore.  Somewhere Moore was mimicking Troy Percival's delivery as he sat down the Giants in the 9th inning.  Maybe there would have been more mentioning of him if he had been a bonafide superstar.  Maybe if he was an already established superstar, he could have dealt with "the Henderson pitch" more effectively.  Either way, Moore received a reprieve in a number of eyes that remember that fateful day.  It's sad it took that long.