When Wally Moon was a boy in Arkansas,
his favorite team was the St. Louis
Cardinals and his favorite player
was standout Enos Country
Slaughter, who had made his Cardinal
debut in 1938, when Wally was eight
years old. Like many boys, Wally
had "big league" dreams,
but he could never have imagined
how his dream would
Moon: '54 Rookie of the Year
Moon initially signed a professional
contract with the Cardinals, but
after four years he appeared headed
nowhere. In 1954, he opted not
to ink another minor league deal,
realizing his young career had
reached a crossroad.
I really didn't think I
could support my family any longer
on a minor league salary,
Moon said. I had a young
wife, a new child, and a career
opportunity to be a college baseball
coach. After reaching the Caribbean
World Series in winter ball, I
thought I deserved a shot with
the big league team.
Surprising everyone, Moon reported
directly to the Cardinals camp
in St. Petersburg, FL, with an
ultimatum: either he stayed with
the club or he would quit baseball.
St. Louis manager Eddie Stanky
recommended that Moon be given
Moon had a sensational spring,
not only making the team, but
bringing about the end to Slaughters
career in St. Louis. Slaughter
was traded to the New York Yankees
and Moon was named an opening-day
starter in his place.
On April 13, 1954, Moon made
his major league debut in St.
Louis against the Cubs. As he
approached the plate for the first
time, a capacity crowd chanted,
We want Slaughter.
Moon worked the count before
hammering a home run in his first
major league at bat. He went on
to hit 12 home runs that year,
which, coupled with a .304 batting
average, 74 RBI and 106 runs scored,
earned Wally Moon National League
Rookie-of-the-Year honors over
the likes of future greats Henry
Aaron and Ernie Banks.