Henry Moore, Mystery Man of Baseball
I have been thinking lately of one-year wonders, phenoms who blazed their names in the sky and then retreated into obscurity. We’ll look at pitchers another day, but in the history of Major League Baseball, only three men have batted .300 in their first full season and then never appeared in the big leagues again: Buzz Arlett, Irv Waldron and, most interestingly to me right now, Henry (sometimes rendered as “Harry” or “Hen”) Moore.
Of these the most celebrated is Arlett, who in 17 minor-league seasons compiled 367 homers and a batting average of .336. In his only MLB year, as a 32-year-old rookie with the 1931 Phils, he hit .313 with 18 home runs (with an OPS+ of 138), then returned to the minors, where in 1932 he hit 54 homers and drove in 144 runs. Like Babe Ruth, he had begun his professional career as a pitcher, leading the Pacific Coast League in wins in 1920 with 29 for the Oakland Oaks. In the years 1919-1922, before converting to a full-time outfielder in 1923, Arlett notched 95 victories.
Irv Waldron began his professional career in 1895 with Pawtucket of the New England League. In 1901, the American League’s first year as a major, he hit .311 between the old Milwaukee Brewers (who would become the St. Louis Browns in 1902) and Washington Senators. While he played another nine seasons for various minor league teams, he never returned to the majors after 1901. Frankly, the difference in pay between the minors west of the Mississippi and a fledgling major league may be sufficient to explain Waldron’s decision–if it was his. His reputation for boneheaded defensive play may have been enough to ward off bidders, too.
Henry Moore hit .336 in with the Washington Nationals in 1884, leading the Union Association, a one-year major league, in hits and in games played. Yet, as David Nemec has written: “After a couple of years in the minors, he completely disappeared. As well as the record for the highest batting average of any player who appeared in the major leagues for only one full season, Moore left behind another unique legacy: He is the only .300 hitter about whom not a single biographical fact is known–where he was born, when he died, which way he batted and threw–none of it.”
I have taken that as a friendly challenge and proceeded to poke around a bit. What I can say with certainty is that he batted left, threw right, was born in California before 1865 and probably died there, certainly sometime after 1905 and before 1912. That is not very precise, I will be the first to admit; perhaps others will pick up loose strands from this ball of yarn and take the research further. [Breaking news as of July 25, 2015: Publication of this story last week prompted some of SABR’s best sleuths–Peter Morris, Richard Malatzky, and Bruce Allardice–to pitch in; see the Comments section below. We now appear to have a good birthdate for Moore of November or December 1862 and a deathdate of June 3, 1902.]
Reading of his various fistfights, suspensions, fines, and blacklists, we may safely say that Henry S. Moore had a problem with drink as well as self-control. It may not be too much to term him a sociopath. The best way to tell his sketchy, nomadic story is chronologically.
I think “our” Henry S. Moore (we don’t know what the S. stood for) is represented in the 1880 census as a 16-year-old living at home with his divorced mother, reportedly 50, and two siblings. In 1879 he had begun his baseball career with the San Francisco Eagles and the Stars, both in the Pacific League. Of his teammates Jerry Denny would be the one who would go on to stardom in the majors. While his parents were both born in Ireland, Henry was born in San Francisco. (On November 24, 1886, the San Francisco Chronicle declared, “Henry Moore, a Californian, and who leads the batters of Northwestern League, has returned to his native city….”)
In 1880 he again played with a San Francisco entry, this time in the California League, in which all four clubs were based in the city by the bay. Among his teammates were Live Oak Taylor and Ned Williamson. The following year found him with the San Francisco Mystics and the Californias. Hen Moore was recognized as an up and comer, and after one more year on the West Coast, with the San Francisco Nationals, he headed east to prove his mettle, joining the Actives of Reading, a strong club in the Inter-State League on which 17 of the 20 men had played in the majors or would go on to do so.
Moore played second base in 34 of his 35 games with the club—indicating but not assuring that he threw righthanded (in the following year, with Washington in the Union Association, he played eight games at shortstop, too). But it seems odd that the Actives played a schedule of at least 64 games, and Moore appears to have played nowhere else in 1883–why did he appear in only 35 games? It turns out that “at a meeting of the managers of the Active base ball club at Reading yesterday [June 22], Henry Moore, second baseman of the club, was ‘blacklisted’ for general misconduct.” After a period of reinstatement—he was undeniably a good player—on August 7 he was again blacklisted, this time permanently. “Manager Fox said that this was final and conclusive. Jacoby will continue to play second base, which he has been covering well.”
All the same, when the Union Association announced its entry into the arena as a third major league, the need to stock its clubs was pressing. Hen Moore was snapped up by the Washington Nationals, and given a starting place in the outfield. For manager Mike Scanlan he played in all but one of the club’s scheduled 112 games but probably should have been expelled again: “The queerest and meanest thing ever done on a ball field,” was how Washington’s pitcher Billy Wise described Moore’s actions in a game against Boston. Denied a $10 advance against his salary in a discussion the evening prior to the game, Moore came to the plate with the score 3-2 against his Nationals with two out in the ninth and Phil Baker on first and Wise on third. Let Wise tell the story:
He walked up the plate, smacked the first ball pitched into the far corner of the lot, good for twice four bases, threw his hat on the ground and deliberately walked to the players’ bench and sat down. Baker and I both raced to the plate but the Boston fielder finally overtook the ball and fielded it to first base, and the umpire declared Moore out, neither run counting under the rule, Boston winning the game 3 to 2….
Tim Murnane, who was present, said it was the most measly trick he ever saw perpetrated…. [Back in Washington] I was commissioned to interview the culprit and offer to remit the fine and suspension if he would agree to play his best for the remainder of the season, for we really needed his services. He seemed sorry for what he had done, and gave his promise, which he kept, playing gilt-edge ball for another month.
This pattern of insubordination, petulance, apology, expulsion, reinstatement, and renewed expulsion came to mark Moore’s career, as we shall see. When the Union Association blew up after its lone season, its former big leaguers were at first blacklisted by both the National League and the American Association, and its lesser lights struggled to hook on with minor-league clubs. Moore found a spot for 1885 with the Washington and then Norfolk clubs, both in the Eastern League. At season’s end, however, he headed west to resume play with the San Francisco Stars. On November 8, 1885, the San Francisco Alta ran an ad:
Baseball To-Day. The Stars and Pioneers will play at Central Park this afternoon. This will be the first appearance of Ed. Morris, Fred Carroll and Henry Moore, who have made such excellent records in the East this season. Morris will pitch and Carroll will catch for the Pioneers. Moore will play with the Stars….
The following November another ad appeared, this time in the Sacramento Daily Union, that confirms Moore to be a lefthand batter.
SPECIAL GAME: HAVERLYS, OF SAN FRANCISCO, ALTAS, OF SACRAMENTO.
LOU HARDIE and INSELL will form the battery for the Haverlys, and McLAGHLAN and BORCHERS for the Altas. HENRY MOORE, the great fielder and lefthanded batter, will play with the Altas.
After incidents during a game on October 22, 1887 Moore, no doubt fueled by drink, got himself blacklisted again. The Los Angeles Herald reported that on October 26,
Henry Moore, the blacklisted centre-fielder, and manager [Mike] Finn, of the Pioneers, came to blows on the street this afternoon over a dispute growing out of difficulties in Saturday’s baseball game, when Moore was expelled from the club. The participants were separated before much injury had been done.
A feisty man with a barrel chest and handlebar mustache, Mike was approximately 5-feet-9-inches tall and weighed about 180 pounds. No stranger to fisticuffs, he tangled with teammate Charles Gagus on March 28 after hearing that Gagus was jumping to another team…. In October Finn tangled with an insubordinate outfielder, Henry Moore, who was making disparaging remarks about him. Finn won the bout and Moore was blacklisted by league President Mone for the duration of the season….
Moore [had] made a farce of a Pioneer-Haverly game on October 22. Playing center field in the second inning, Moore, in the Chronicle’s estimation, “deliberately shirked a fly ball, which he could easily have caught, but folded his arms and stood stone still and allowed the ball to drop to the ground, three men scoring on the play.” Finn promptly ordered him off the field at the end of the inning to loud hisses and groans from the crowd. Moore was then blacklisted by league President Mone and was fined $25.
Three days later Finn and Moore ran into each other near a saloon on O’Farrell Street. Mike heard that Moore was making disparaging remarks about him, which Moore denied. Soon thereafter, blows were exchanged and a lively fight started, which was eventually broken up by the crowd. Reporters speculated that Moore’s behavior resulted because he had bet heavily on his team to win and was upset when they fell behind. Others thought Moore wanted to see his pitcher, Joseph Purcell, dropped from the team. [The blacklisted Moore in fact accused his teammates of throwing the game, then ventured south to Los Angeles, where he played left field with the touring Philadelphia Phillies for some games with the local nine.]
In March 1888 Moore took pen in hand to craft a public apology, which was published locally in the San Francisco Alta and in Sporting Life, the national sporting weekly.
SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 24. Editor Alta: As I intend applying to the California League for reinstatement, and as I earnestly hope my application will be favorably received, I feel that I owe the public that I should endeavor to set myself right before them. For my hasty action during the championship game the 22nd of last October I have no excuse to offer, but instead the most sincere apologies. To those of my friends who would make excuse for my conduct on that day I can only say that I acted in a moment of passion, caused by over-zealousness for the success of my club. Various reports circulated after that game, in effect that I had left the field because of my belief that it was a hippodrome, have gained credence. In regard to these I desire to have it understood that they, as well as many other statements reflecting on base ball, as conducted in this city, and which I was supposed to authorize, did not originate with me. I never had any reason to doubt the integrity of the officials of the California League; they have ever felt a kindly interest in the players, and their instructions have always been to play good, bona fide ball, and created in our minds the impression that shirking would not be tolerated. I know nothing of the charge that one of the managers had money wagered on the result of the League games. In conclusion, my dismissal has proved a most valuable lesson, and I know it will have a most beneficial effect upon me for all time to come.
Hoping that the foregoing will receive space in your valuable columns, I am very sincerely,
Wally Wallace, with whom Moore had played on the San Francisco Californias in 1881, observed in print, “Henry writes well, doesn’t he? Moore is an immense favorite with the San Francisco public, and the magnates have the good sense to know that he is a powerful attraction. I am heartily glad that the great player will be given a chance.”
Moore was reinstated for the 1888 campaign, but within a month manager Finn canned him again, this time for drinking.
Henry S. Moore, ball player, is listed in the San Francisco City directory for 1889, a year in which he hooked on with the Sacramento and then Stockton clubs and, on April 2, married Maggie Agnew, a 29-year-old San Franciscan. For 1890 he was offered a return to the Stockton outfield but instead tried out for the Minneapolis club, which declined his services. Apart from an oldtimers’ game in 1897, Moore’s baseball days were done.
He became a salesman, nominally, and a streetcar conductor, but also a vagrant, hauled before the courts ignominiously. He and his wife had repeated rows which brought in the police. On May 7, 1900, the San Francisco Call reported, “Hen Moore has packed his grip and left his former home at 706 Ellis Street. He says he is through with his wife for all time.” In July he attended an event at the city’s famed Olympic Club; his reputation, for all the damage it had endured, somehow remained.
The last press mention of him alive may have come on May 26, 1905, when his 78-year-old mother, a dressmaker, was thrown out of a window by her 50-year-old female friend of two decades, in a dispute over a missing $15. Mrs. Moore “told her pitiful tale at the hospital, and said Mrs. Collins inflicted the wounds with her hands. Dr. Hill, who attended her, expresses but little hope for her recovery on account of her age…. Mrs. Moore is the mother of ‘Hen’ Moore, once a noted baseball player.” San Francisco death records were incinerated in the fires following the great earthquake of 1906, but Mrs. Moore never again appeared in a city directory listing, nor did her son.
In February 1912 James Hart, former business manager and part owner of the Chicago White Stockings, who had toured California with the Louisville club of the American Association in December 1886, returned to San Francisco. He reminisced about the ballplayers of those famous California nines of olden days with whom he had waged battle. “Two of the outfielders, Jim Bufford and Henry Moore, have since died,” he noted.