Bob Moose–Topps Company–1973
When Bob Moose reported to spring training in 1973, he had to wade through a cloud of questioning from Pittsburgh writers about the events of the previous fall. In the ninth inning of the final game of the 1972 Championship Series against the Reds, Moose faced Hal McRae. With the game tied and two men out, George Foster led off third base. Moose uncorked a low fastball that eluded catcher Manny Sanguillen, enabling Foster to sprint home with the series-ending run.
In 1973, Moose did his best to shrug off the experience, but also expressed some frustration. “The only thing that bothers me now is that people–that’s all they want to talk about,” Moose told the Associated Press. “I threw better [than that] all year, and they want to talk about one pitch.”
Perhaps affected by the continued hounding about the wild pitch, the hard-throwing right-hander fell to 12-13 and saw his era climb to 3.53 in 1973, and then underwent a knee operation to remove some cartilage. The following summer, a blood clot near Moose’s collarbone sidelined him for most of the season. The clot necessitated two operations. Although Moose struggled to regain his pitching form after the surgeries, he seemed destined to become the heir apparent to Dave Giusti as the Pirates’ No. 1 relief pitcher.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck the talented reliever during the fall of 1976. On October 9, Moose was driving on a narrow, twisting road near Martins Ferry, Ohio, making his way to a birthday party being thrown in his honor. Current and former Pirate teammates like Nellie Briles, Dave Giusti, Bruce Kison, Manny Sanguillen, Jim Rooker, and ElRoy Face awaited Moose’s arrival at a golf course and restaurant owned by Bill Mazeroski. At about 9:30 PM, while driving south on Ohio Route 7, Moose lost control of his car on the rain-slickened road. Police said that Moose, who was driving too fast given the wet conditions, swerved onto the bank of the road, then veered back to the left of the center line. His car crashed head-on into an oncoming vehicle. Two women in Moose’s car and the other driver escaped with injuries. Moose was not so fortunate. The young pitcher was pronounced dead at the scene. His death, while tragic enough, occurred on his 29th birthday. Moose left behind a wife, Alberta, and a young daughter, April.
Richie Hebner, who served in the Marines with Moose, remembers receiving the tragic news. “I’ll never forget, I got a call and someone said, ‘Bob died.’ And I said, ‘Bob? There’s a lot of Bobs [on the Pirates].” Thoughts of roommate Bob Robertson raced through Hebner’s mind. “And they told me Moose. Geez, I felt so bad, I flew down to Pittsburgh for the funeral, and I tell ya, that was a sad, sad funeral, because at the time I think his daughter was only four years old. It was tough.” While his teammates liked him, Moose’s opponents respected him, especially his competitiveness and his willingness to pitch in pain. “Bob Moose was my kind of player,” said Pete Rose of the Reds. “He would fight you to the bitter end.”
On December 15, 1976, friends and teammates of Moose announced plans to establish a “Bob Moose Memorial Fund,” which would help pay for the education of Moose’s daughter and establish a scholarship at Moose’s high school alma mater. Al Oliver, the chairman of the fund, was one of Moose’s closest friends on the Bucs. He applauded Moose for the way he handled himself after the infamous wild pitch that ended the Pirates’ season in 1972. “Moose didn’t go into hiding after that pitch,” Oliver told The Sporting News. “He walked off the field with his head high. Later in the clubhouse, he didn’t hide from reporters. He answered every question and he didn’t alibi. He was a pro.”