After a near eight year campaign, it finally happened. One of Oklahoma's greatest baseball players and unheralded citizens was ultimately inducted into our great state's Sports Hall Of Fame. Phone calls, emails and personal visits with Hall Of Fame committee members comprised of reinforcing reminders of a great athlete that cannot be denied or left out. Assertive and historical reminders including reference to Oklahoma's Only Number One Major League Baseball Draft Choice, ever, is not in our Hall Of Fame. Determined reminders that kept the fires burning until statistically induced flames spread far enough they could no longer be ignored and/or put out at home plate.
The challenge was thoroughly exciting and enjoyable. The statistical premise of strategy was similar to that found in the now classic baseball movie "Money Ball," which was ironically about the Oakland A's. The mental exertion to construct a well researched and statistically cultivated outcome became somewhat similar as the higher realm of Oklahoma sports icons began to recognize and remember a 20th Century phenom from Eakly, Oklahoma. Despite the normal "there are so many deserving athletes that aren't in the Hall Of Fame" feedback, when push came to shove, no one should have ever had to push.
Eakly's Mike Moore should have been inducted several years ago. He will tell you that himself as he told me that himself. But, despite woulda, shoulda and coulda, what a great moment in time (2019) for it to actually happen. What a spectacular way for the many young lives he has mentored over the span of twenty-five years post retirement to be afforded the opportunity to enjoy this magnificent Hall Of Fame moment with him.
Leading up to the aforementioned Hall Of Fame moment, the unfolding of this story is rooted within an abundance of nomination information. It is not my place to accept credit for anyone's induction as I have worked on and continue to work on a few.
It is the actual accomplishments labored for and acquired by gifted athletes such as Mike Moore that bring about such honor and recognition from fellow iconic athletes and dignitaries. I consider myself most fortunate to experience the pleasure of constructing the pieces of a somewhat lost puzzle in time and showing it off to the right people that brought us to a right place and the right moment in God's time.
The depth of information is abundantly extensive. I share this for those who lack interest with desire to drop out here after already knowing the final, last out in the bottom of the ninth inning, results.
For those with inclination to run deep into center field with effort to make a "Willie Mays" over the head reach for the stars type of immortal baseball catch, Mike Moore's story line is worth the time. Its scenario almost lost its tale before it could be told. One that includes a tragedy to triumph narrative in more ways than one.
Before diving off into those deep waters of tragedy, triumph and statistical stuffed nomination information, Mike's family, friends and fans will enjoy the experience of his actual Oklahoma Sports Hall Of Fame announcement ceremony filmed as 2019 inductees were introduced to the mass media along with Hall Of Fame members and advocates.
On April 24, 1974, headlines in the Carnegie Herald read "Eakly Youth Hurt In Crash."
This particular small town newspaper article did not mention a great all-around athlete or young baseball phenom. It candidly read as follows:
"An Eakly youth was seriously injured Sunday afternoon when the automobile in which he was riding went out of control, left the pavement, crossed a bar ditch and crashed into a fence a half mile North of Eakly on Highway 58. He was thrown from the car.
Mike Moore, a student in the Eakly public school system, suffered a broken knee, leg and a broken hip in the accident. He underwent emergency surgery Sunday afternoon at McBride Hospital in Oklahoma City. He was in surgery two hours.
His sister, Frances, driver of the car, had turned to speak to Mike when the accident occurred. She escaped with minor injuries and was released from the Weatherford hospital after receiving emergency treatment. She was wearing a seat belt and was not thrown from the car by the impact. Moore has one leg in a cast and the other is in traction. Parents of the two youths are Mr. and Mrs. Vernie Moore."
From a personal email received and dated April 25, 2015, a former Eakly police officer shared what he considered a Paul Harvey type "Rest Of The Story" as he was summoned to the accident previously mentioned in the Carnegie Herald.
"On a hot summer afternoon in 1974 a young woman was driving down a rural highway in Western Oklahoma with her kid brother who was about 14 years old and full of piss and vinegar. Like any typical 14 year old he enjoyed aggravating big sis and on this day, he kept turning the radio up louder than she was willing to tolerate.
He finally managed to distract her to the point that she took her eyes off the road while trying to get him to behave. Before she realized what was happening, she had crossed the other lane and was going off the pavement and into the grassy bar ditch.
She barely had time to hit her brakes before plowing into fence row embankment at about a 45 degree angle. This caused the car to go airborne and to do a half roll before landing on its top.
The young woman driving had her seat belt fastened and was only shaken up pretty badly but the boy wasn't so lucky. He was not wearing his seat belt and the passenger door had sprung open dumping the boy onto the barb wire fence that the car cleared.
The car and the boy were still moving about 20 to 30 miles an hour when the boy was caught by the top wire of the fence.
As he was sliding along that fence on the fronts of both thighs, his legs were being sawed off by the barbs when he hit a fence post which stopped him but broke his leg in the process. By the time the local police officer got there, it looked like the boy might lose at least one of his broken and mangled legs if not both.
Extensive surgery and the resilience of youth along with an amazing amount of guts and determination were the miracle that had that young man back on his feet in rehab within weeks and even running again within a few months. Still, he was not satisfied with just being able to run so he kept pushing himself. Before a year had passed, he had returned to his school basketball and baseball teams."
Former Officer Gary Klein, a member of the Eakly High School class of 1965, continued to share.
"Now for the rest of the story!
I was the police officer called to the wreck and I had to go find a place to cry after getting the boy and his sister loaded into an ambulance that hot afternoon.
Some 15 years later, one of the great thrills of my life was getting to watch on TV as that young man pitched the winning 4th game of the 1989 World Series for the Oakland A's.
Yes, that broken and mangled boy laying in a pasture alongside Highway 58 just north of Eakly in 1974 was Mike Moore."
Now for the rest of the rest of the story.
As a young OK Kids little leaguer growing up on several north Caddo County fields of dreams, there was always a particular one in Eakly, Oklahoma, that, at the time, seemed more of a petrifying nightmare than the old guy behind the curtain on the Wizard Of Oz. That is before they opened it. More frightening than all those black birds in "The Birds" combined. More terrifying than the hairy red eyed big foot monster my dad said he saw down by Gracemont. In more current terms, a lot scarier than that big slobbery dog in Mr. Mertle's (James Earl Jones') back yard.
Luckily I was young enough to not have to face such spine-chilling fear. As for my elder little league friends, well, they weren't so lucky. The horror stories they would share of facing one particular pitcher on that field in Eakly was enough to make me glad of a personal safety found in being the most youthful of this group. Young enough to never have to pull the curtain to see what was behind. Young enough to never have to jump in a phone booth as those birds cracked the glass in attack. Young enough to not even have to worry about jumping Mr. Mertle's fence to retrieve a home run ball all-the-while dodging a huge rabid looking monster of a dog. Young enough to not have to face the fierce and fiery fastball of Eakly's Mike Moore.
Here's where the psychoanalytical Dr. Phil would interrupt and point out the fact that Mike Moore psychologically won half of his little league battles before taking the field. Players sitting around eating their momma's pre-game balogna sandwiches and sweating bullets about facing the phenom all the others have been talking about. "If they couldn't do it, well I don't have a chance" mentality is a losing proposition from the git go. A cue card guy then holds up a "laughter with applause" sign for the crowd as we go to commercial break.
There's definitely some appreciable drama to be created in and around the game of baseball. Entertaining theatrical productions such as The Sandlot, Field Of Dreams and Bull Durham are prime examples. But, when it comes to real stuff and the real deal, Mike Moore is one that does not sell us short with his story. My friends can attest from the early days that he was somewhat opposite of the ole Wizard known as Oz. As a hitter, you pull the curtain on Mike Moore and your courage would vanish like that of the old downtrodden Lion walking the yellow brick road with Dorothy, Toto, The Tin Man and the Scarecrow.
What a great baseball story originating from the dusty ole peanut fields of Caddo County and ending up on a pitcher's mound in sunny California with sweet victory in World Championship Series play for the Oakland A's. From a proudly worn little league uniform with an iron-on E to the MLB with a more glorified and perfectly stitched green and yellow A's cap. This only happens to a chosen few. A chosen few with such a high level of natural talent and the highest level of work ethic to match.
I will proudly lay claim and be the first to testify that Mike Moore, over his 14 year professional career, has earned the right to be considered one of Oklahoma's greatest red dirt, red blood, born and raised, Major League Baseball pitchers of all time. This stirring statement has drawn the attention of several Oklahoma sports enthusiasts. Kind of left some scratching their heads in wonder. I've heard declarations such as "Wow, who is this guy?" "Wow, where did he come from?" "Wow, where's he been?" "Wow, how come we've never heard of him?"
Well, I have to answer all those questions with a "wow, not for sure." I've heard and known of him since the late 1960's when his fastball was cutting right through the small town hot summer night-at-the-ball-park atmosphere to strike out batter after batter in win after win.
The most enjoyable part of this adventure was found in just laying out the facts and figures (aka statistics) in front of all to see. Most importantly, Mike Moore's 161 career MLB victories literally spoke Hall Of Fame worthiness without another whisper being needed. Oklahoman sportswriter and sports radio talking head Berry Tramel said it straight up. "Moore's 161 Major League Baseball wins should be a 'slam dunk' in regard to Oklahoma Sports Hall Of Fame induction." Tramel's prophetic words of wisdom came to fruition as the process transformed into that slam dunk when all was said and done.
Mike Moore played for the Seattle Mariners from 1982-1988; the Oakland Athletics from 1989-1992; and the Detroit Tigers from 1993-1995. After vigorously researching his fourteen (14) year career, it became my personal conclusion that he has earned the right to be considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, pitcher born and raised in our great state of Oklahoma.
Now for the numerous and ageless Allie Reynolds fans, they will always possess the right to argue in his favor as being Oklahoma's greatest born and bred. What a great man and baseball player the "Super-Chief" was. His 5x all star representation of Oklahoma keeps me walking a fine line of respect when it comes to my personal thoughts of Mike Moore being the greatest.
A casual coffee at the cafe debate could go either direction on any given day when you compare golden age victories to modern day MLB victories. But, bring the Money Ball approach of statistics and environment comparisons and I confidently confirm it leans more toward Moore's way.
Allie Reynolds compiled 182 golden age wins compared to Mike Moore's 161 modern era victories. Reynolds pitched for the powerhouse five in a row World Series Champion New York Yankees. Although drafted #1 in 1981 as the best amateur baseball player in America, Moore had to pitch a large and early part of his career for one of the worst teams in Major League baseball, the Seattle Mariners.
If afforded a pitching preference, are you taking DiMaggio, Mantle and the powerhouse Yankees of the golden age era or Dave Henderson, Harold Reynolds and the young Seattle Mariners in their start up era?
Whichever way a person chooses to look at it, both Allie Reynolds and Mike Moore are at the top of a very short Oklahoma's best list. Reynolds was already in the Oklahoma Sports Hall Of Fame while Mike Moore deserved to be and now is. Moore's amazing 161 modern era career victories being a principal reason I nominated him for such Hall Of Fame status.
In comparison, other Oklahoma born and raised pitchers previously selected for Hall Of Fame honors included Lindy McDaniel with 141 victories and Harry Bracheen with 132. Ralph Terry was more recently (2015) inducted with 107 career wins, As well, fellow Caddo County born Cal McLish received his induction with 92 career MLB victories.
If 161 modern day MLB victories wasn't going to be enough, additional and solid evidence was discovered to convince any and all sports enthusiasts of Mike Moore's superiority relative to pitchers born and raised in Oklahoma. A factual offering founded upon hard core direct-to-the-case statistical proof. Those who know me know I can blow some quality smoke of the verbal variety and are most likely reading between the lines as I write. Makes good reason for me to single space and bring some solid statistically analytical data-based information to this most enjoyable table of baseball contents debate.
There's no denying a real truth revealed when it comes to career strikeouts.
We all know a strikeout is the supreme claim of success for any pitcher. Man vs. Man. eMano vs. eMano. Baseball at its best. The ultimate lust that feeds a fan's desire is either a towering home run from their favorite hitter or a sit down see-ya-later strikeout from their favorite pitcher. Tedious singles up the middle can get rather boring at times. I'm guessing no one has ever truly taken time to check out and recognize who's at the top of Oklahoma's best list when it comes to this hardcore hardball thought of man vs. man career total strikeouts for Oklahoma pitchers at the highest (MLB) level.
So, where does Mike Moore fit into the realm of reality in regard to Oklahoma's greatest pitchers? I will argue he's the best when it comes to the red dirt, red blood, born and raised category.
Personally, I now view Mike Moore's induction as a remarkable time stamped inspiration to current student athletes in my home county. This recognized with hopes that yet another young Caddo County ball player may recognize what the likes of Johnny Bench and Mike Moore have accomplished and possibly set out on a triumphant journey of their own. With similar and great natural talent combined with determination and hard work, who knows, maybe there is a next generation inductee awaiting recognition from the Oklahoma Sports Hall Of Fame.
Past the point of most obvious career wins and career strikeouts, there is a wealth of nose-to-the-grind research that validates the now successful request for Mike Moore's Oklahoma Sports Hall Of Fame induction.
Moore was a standout student athlete at Eakly high school. With a 24-2 senior season record and an unbelievable .05 earned run average (E.R.A.), Moore earned his final high school victory while being selected MVP in Oklahoma's 29th Annual All-State Baseball Classic in 1978.
Despite being drafted in the third round out of Eakly in 1978 by the St. Louis Cardinals, Moore chose to attend college and pitch for Oral Roberts University. Also by-passing a basketball scholarship offer from the University of Oklahoma, he earned First Team Sporting News All-American baseball status in 1981 while at ORU. Moore then became the first right handed pitcher ever to be drafted into the major leagues #1 overall by the Seattle Mariners in 1981. To date, Mike Moore is the first and only player from Oklahoma ever to be selected #1 in the history of Major League Baseball's draft.
Historically, the Daily Oklahoman's Bob Hersom recognized Moore as an "Eakly High School and Oral Roberts University (ORU) pitching ace." 1981 ORU Pitching Coach Jim Brewer said "I've seen a lot of pitchers in the last 25 years and I think Mike Moore is probably one of the strongest." During the 1989 World Series, former Oakland A's Pitching Coach Dave Duncan shared that "Mike hasn't just been sitting back and trying to let his God-given ability take over, he's worked hard to improve in all the different areas to become a great pitcher."
Baseball Almanac indicates Mike Moore was twenty-two (22) years old when he broke into the majors with the Seattle Mariners on April 11, 1982. Pinnacle highlights of Moore's 161 win, fourteen year MLB career include 1989 MLB All-Star status and pitching in two World Series Championships for the Oakland A's in both 1989 and 1990. Moore won game two and the deciding game four in the 1989 "Quake Series" sweep of the S.F. Giants as the A's became World Champions.
Moore recently returned to his Oklahoma roots and now spends time giving back to the game in the state where he was born and raised. As a volunteer coach for Class B powerhouse Lookeba-Sickles Panthers, he currently shares the benefit of his professional experience and knowledge with the latest generation of Oklahoma High School student athletes. Another great reason Mike Moore deserved honorary induction into the Oklahoma Sports Hall Of Fame.
In 2014, Daily Oklahoman sports reporter Jacob Unruh captured the essence of Mike Moore's career in The Oklahoman's long running "Collected Wisdom" series.
Unruh interviews and writes:
"Mike Moore was always on a baseball field growing up in Eakly. That translated well throughout his life, as he developed into a top-tier right-hander in the major leagues, winning two games in the 1989 World Series for the Oakland Athletics during his 14-year career.
Moore is now a volunteer assistant coach at Lookeba-Sickles, a sign he’s never lost sight of his small-town roots that led him to Oral Roberts and the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1981.
Moore talked from his Arizona home with The Oklahoman about his path, the World Series and the 1989 earthquake that rocked the Bay Area around San Francisco 25 years ago this month.
(Baseball) was what we did. It was just what we did. I can’t remember really when I wasn’t in the field growing up. The primary crop was peanuts then and I was the youngest of five kids and I can remember at the age of 3, 4, 5 years old carrying the water can down the road for the rest of my family.
Unknowingly, by the time I got to the high school, working on the farm had really made me into the man I am today. I would do things, manual labor stuff and just different things around the farm I didn’t even know were helping me in baseball. It really taught me the values of hard work and when you do something you put your whole heart on it.
By this time (at ORU), I had an idea that maybe I had some talent. I still really don’t know because all you hear is ‘Oh, he went to a small school and he didn’t compete with anybody’ and blah, blah, blah. Well, now I’m going to a Division I school. It was interesting at the time, Larry Cochell recruited me and he never saw me pitch. He went off a lot of what scouts said. He had already given me a full scholarship and the first time he saw me pitch was at the All-State game at ORU.
I tell people I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed but when I got drafted No. 1 in the country I didn’t think I’d get drafted any higher, so I should probably just go ahead and sign.
I was the first right-handed pitcher ever drafted No. 1 in the draft. Back then, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Even today kids ask me if I was any good. I just tell them I was the original Stephen Strasburg. It just wasn’t that big of a deal then. At that time, even when I got to the big leagues I was throwing on the slow guns 97-98 in the ninth inning and the made-for-TV guns I’m probably throwing 100-103. It just wasn’t a big deal then.
That’s the bad part of getting drafted No. 1 because you go to the worst team. I had never lost at anything in my life and then I go the big leagues and get beat up on for seven years playing for the Mariners.
We had some great guys on that team, but at the time we had bad ownership and we were like a farm system for the big leagues. Harold Reynolds was my roommate for a couple years, Jim Presley was our 3B, Spike Owen, Alvin Davis at 1B, Mark Langston and Danny Tartabull, really a bunch of guys who had really successful careers, but when you’re playing in the Kingdome, which is awful for a pitcher, and you were playing in Seattle with bad ownership it just didn’t work.
I signed (in Oakland) in ’89 and they had just lost to the Dodgers in ’88 and I walked into the clubhouse and they’re talking about winning the World Series. They’re not talking about winning the division. Tony (La Russa’s) already set the bar that we’re going to have to win 100 games to win the division and the goal is to win the World Series. I thought this was interesting, but I had never been in this position for seven years.
I think most people would tell you the same thing, the greatest thing about being with (Dave Duncan) is he doesn’t say much, but when he says something there’s a reason why he says it. He’s never overcomplicated things and that was one of the things I always loved about him. He was actually my pitching coach my first year in the big leagues in Seattle.
Tony, he’s the best manager I’ve ever played for. He’s harder on himself than anybody. He’s probably harder on himself than most players are because he wants to be the most prepared manager and he wants to control matchups and there’s always a reason for what he does. It may not make all the sense in the world at the time, but there’s a reason. He’s usually looking at the big picture.
I remember the first World Series game, I remember preparing for it like any other game because I figured if I didn’t I would be out of my element. We had a game plan and I had to get myself ready physically and mentally to execute the game plan, so that’s what I did.
At the time, we didn’t really know what was going on. I remember we were getting ready for TV introductions, I had done all my workouts and stuff, and showered and was getting dressed. The lights went out and somebody yelled, “Earthquake,” and we all ran to the back parking lot and it was over. We didn’t know any better and had TV introductions at 5:12 or something. I stopped at home plate and was talking to Will Clark and then we started talking to a police officer and we started hearing the (San Francisco Oakland) Bay Bridge had collapsed and the Marina District was on fire, so you started having an idea what was really going on. At that point, the World Series became secondary.
We had the best team in baseball — I don’t think there was any doubt about that — it was just a matter of whether we would finish this or not. Even after we won, the celebration and stuff was pretty subdued because of what was going on there and stuff.
The next year was a totally different story and that shows you it doesn’t matter who the best team is, when you get into the playoffs or World Series whoever is playing the best wins. We ran into Cincinnati that year and we really didn’t have a chance. We couldn’t swing the bats and Jose Rijo was really good.
If I had one regret, it would probably had been fun to play in the National League one year just to see what it was like because I was always a pretty good hitter. That might have been fun, but it is what it was and I enjoyed it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some screw-ups along the way, but I try to live my life with integrity because where I grew up a handshake’s a handshake and a man’s word is a man’s word. I’ve tried to live that way my whole life. If you try to live your life with integrity and put your whole heart into what you’re doing, I don’t think you’re ever going to be disappointed."