BRYAN -- Bryan resident and baseball legend Wally Moon is headed back to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum this Saturday, March 29, to help his former team, the Dodgers, kick off their yearlong celebration of 50 years on the West Coast. He’ll be introduced at the exhibition game against the 2007 World Champions, the Boston Red Sox.
Ticket sales for the event, the second in a three-game series and the only one being played at the Coliseum, are expected to reach 125,000. This would surpass the highest single-game attendance mark for a previous big league game, which occurred at the same stadium on May 7, 1959. The Dodgers and Yankees played before an exhibition crowd of 93,103 in honor of Roy Campanella. The net proceeds of Saturday’s game will go to ThinkCure, the new official charity of the Los Angeles Dodgers and their partners, City of Hope Hospital and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.
“The Dodgers have invited all of the living 1958 LA Dodgers,” Moon said, “including my good friend Duke Snider. There’ll be more memories than home runs, I’m afraid, but I won’t mind taking a swing or two at that ball. Somebody else will have to run the bases, though.”
In addition to an appearance at the Coliseum game, Moon has been invited to participate in on-field opening day ceremonies Monday, March 31, when the Dodgers play the San Francisco Giants.
Moon was traded to the Dodgers in 1959, one year after the team made their move to California from Brooklyn. He started his baseball career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1954 with an out-of-the-park homerun his first time at bat. With a batting average of .304, Moon was named Rookie-of-the-year, beating out Hank Aaron for the title. But it wasn’t until he became a Dodger that he perfected his Moon Shot, the homerun method that made him famous.
“When the Dodgers moved west, they took up temporary play in the LA Coliseum,” explained Moon. “With an awkward layout for baseball on a field built for track, it was definitely a right-handers ballpark. Left field was only 251 feet away and protected by a 42-foot high screen. In fact, when they made the trade, I wondered why they even wanted a lefty like me.”
After a pep talk from former teammate Stan Musial, and hours spent batting pitches from his fellow Dodgers, Moon learned how to hit home runs over left-field fence.
“I had to power the ball high instead of low and long like I usually did,” Moon said. “During the time the Russians hit the moon with a rocket, I shot a ball up and over that fence. Vin Scully, a play-by-play announcer, called out, ‘It’s another Moon shot,’ and the name stuck.”
Physical changes made in recent years have altered the Coliseum, but the fence in left field will be resurrected for the game Saturday.
Moon retired from baseball after the 1965 season. He will be accompanied on the trip by his wife Bettye and four of their five children.