"First of all, my deepest sympathies to the Moon family, some of whom I was so fortunate to meet at the 50th wedding anniversary. Very regrettably, I will not be able to make it to the viewing or service, so please excuse me if I seem to go on a bit.
Wally Moon has been a significant part of my life for about 62 of the 70 years I have lived, and will continue to be so. Not only was he a superb major league baseball player; he was a role model for how a player should conduct himself on the field and off. Moreover, the importance he attached to education, being decades ahead of his counterparts at the time for insisting he complete both an undergraduate and graduate education, was exemplary. His focus on education did not escape my Mensa-minded mother, and she became his fan as well, buying me my first baseball glove at age 8, yes, a Wally Moon fielders model featuring a crescent moon and stars, that I used relentlessly the first four years in Khoury League ball (a St. Louis form of little league) until it literally fell apart. I also learned to hit left-handed, unnatural for me, starting with countless hours of wiffle ball with my best friend, Mike.
As with most kids growing up in St. Louis, I was an avid listener to Cardinal games on KMOX radio and was able to attend a handful of games each year. My heart would race every time Wally came to bat. I always knew his batting average as a Cardinal and would recalculate his average after the game, not a bad way to appreciate math at an early age. I would cut out pictures and articles from the Globe Democrat and Post-Dispatch, taping or gluing them into various scrap books. On a few rare occasions, I was able to obtain his autograph. In those fleeting moments, I would freeze trying to say just the right thing to let him know how much I idolized him. Always patient, he treated his fans with respect.
When he was traded to the Dodgers near the end of 1958, I did the nearly unthinkable for a Cardinal fanI switched loyalties. Wally did not disappoint, leading a Dodger team that finished seventh the year before to a world championship in 1959. After the season, he sent me a signed picture postcard, which I still have today, thanking me for my support. Given the time difference, it was at times more difficult then to follow games on the west coast. When the Cardinals played an April, May or September night game in Los Angeles on a school night, I would sometimes hide my transistor radio under the cover so I could listen to the broadcast on KMOX when I was supposed to be sleeping.
As the years passed, I always kept an eye out for news about Wally, at one point even hearing a rumor shortly after retirement he might run for political office. He variously was a Padres coach, and both minor league owner and manager, while employing his academic credentials as athletic director for John Brown University in Arkansas. One day in the late 70's, I spied the cover of a paper back by the revered Roger Kahn that appeared to have a likeness of Wally on the cover. It was A Season in the Sun and had an entire chapter devoted to the time Kahn spent with Moon family in Siloam Springs. I must have read the chapter four times, only to read it again whenever I come across my copy.
At some point in my career, discretionary income worked its way into my budget. I launched a search for memorabilia from the 50's and 60's with particular focus on Wally. During my earlier destitute days in graduate school, I had sold off almost every card, yearbook and autograph I had collected as a child, letting go of the likes of a 1955 Ted Williams and 1957 Mickey Mantle, but holding back Wally's 1955 and 1956 cards. Through the magic of eBay, I encountered Wally's son who graciously put me in touch with his father in the early to mid-90's, beginning a many-year connection through letters and emails. Knowing the special place Wally had in my life, Wally's kids invited me to Wally and Bettye's 50th wedding anniversary in Bryan, which I attended, on my wife's birthday no less. Despite being in my mid-50's at the time, I felt the same kind of nervousness as that kid who waited outside the stadium to get his autograph before getting on the team bus. When it was my turn to greet him and Bettye, he repeated my name and added my greatest fan. There are no doubt hundreds of greatest fans around the country, but he knew exactly the right thing to say. I was euphoric.
A few years later, he embarked on his autobiography, working in collaboration with his long-time friend, Tim Gregg. Sensing I was something of an amateur Moon historian, Wally and Tim asked if I would like to review the various chapters of the manuscript as they were prepared with particular attention to any facts or events I might have recalled from my years of observation and collection of memorabilia. I relished the opportunity and was honored to have been entrusted with such a blessing. I could not wait for the next chapter to arrive. When it did, everything else outside my work took second place. While there wasn't a whole lot I could add to the thorough job Wally and Tim were doing, I took enormous pleasure out of researching where I might identify a potential nugget here and there fit to be included. Unlike some player autobiographies, this one was extremely well written.
Several years later, Wally and I had something else in common. In 2010, I had cardiac bypass surgery. He sent heartfelt words of encouragement during and after my recovery that I will always remember, as I came through the experience with flying colors. My most recent exchange with him was around Thanksgiving as he was anticipating the getting together of family and friends. The week he passed away, I had in fact been thinking about writing him again, in part to let him know I was still remaining active and had signed up for men's 70 and older softball here in Florida. Knowing my affection for him, my two closest friends both emailed me to see if I had heard. I was stunned. Though irrational, I guess I always expected him to be there, even though the loss of Bettye in 2016 raised a worry. I am comforted by the fact he led a fantastic life, had a great family, a great career and was a testament to goodness. Congratulations on a life well-lived. I will miss him greatly."
" Wally Moon passing;
Our Craighead County Historical Society has lost a great member. Wally was a true gentleman and friend to me and the CCHS he has supported the society for nearly three decades now. Seems like everyone remembers Wally hitting that famous first home run of his. They have a story of where they were then it happened. Wally presented two programs one in the 1990s and the other in July 2012. These were the best attended meeting that our society had since I have been attending. His father Bert Moon (Mayor of Bay) also presented a program about Bay, Arkansas in the 1990s. Wally's father lived next door to my cousin in Bay and I got to know him very well before Bert passed away 1998 at the age on 91.
When I learned of his passing I drove to where the Pickett Post used to be on East Washington This is where the American Legion Baseball field was for years and where Wally played some of his best baseball as a youth. I said a little prayer for Wally and his family. He had time for anyone that wanted to meet him and was willing to sign autographs on every request. He even went with me to my grandson Will Silas's house and signed autographs there I will ask Will from time to time how many people can say a major league ball player visited their house?
In his later years he would call me and say Dan I need a taxi driver! I was ready to go!
Wally Moon was also a friend to Arkansas State University and threw out the first pitch at their games on numerous occasions. I know his children over the years must have wanted him not to sign on occasions and I would like to thank them for sharing Wally with us over the years.
RIP Wally we will all miss you. I can see him sliding Home in Heaven now."
"Wally was loved and admired by so many people. As famous as he was, he was still a humble and friendly person to all who knew him. Those attributes stand above all the rest and that is why he was so loved. He was an outstanding human being. He will indeed be missed."