Editor’s note: A few surprising Yankees seasons just missed the cut in our staff-wide voting of the best in franchise history. So this week, we want to salute five more that would have been excellent picks as well! We begin today with Wilcy Moore. Take it away, Matt!
The 1927 Yankees were one of the greatest teams baseball has and ever will see. They went 110-44, romping to an AL Pennant, and then swept their way through the World Series. Boasting an outstanding roster, the team was known as “Murderers’ Row.”
When thinking of that team, you mind tends to first go to the offense. After all, they were led by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, two inner circle all-time greats who had ridiculously good seasons. However, you don’t put up that good a record with just two great players; you need contributions from all over the field.
One of those contributions came from a 30-year-old rookie named Wilcy Moore.
1927 Statistics: 50 games, 12 starts, 213.0 innings, 19-7, 2.28 ERA, 2.83 FIP, 171 ERA+, 1.146 WHIP, 5.9 bWAR, 2.9 fWAR
Moore had made his professional debut back in 1922. While he occasionally put up some solid numbers over the next couple seasons, he failed to put himself on the radar of major league teams. Then in 1925, his arm was fractured while hitting in a game. Once he recovered and returned, Moore found it difficult to pitch overhand. That caused him to change to a more sidearm motion. The new style allowed him to then put up a 2.86 ERA in the 1926 season, winning 30 games in the South Atlantic League. Yankees’ owner Ed Barrow came across those statistics while reading the “Sporting News” and decided to take a chance on Moore, despite the fact that he was nearing 30.
Manager Miller Huggins mostly used Moore in a relief role in spring training and was impressed. He would then make his debut as reliever in the third game of the 1927 season. Coming in during the first inning after Bob Shawkey retired just one of the five batters he faced, Moore made his MLB debut on April 14, 1927. It did not go great, as he allowed four unearned runs and five total in 4.2 innings.
But he quickly rebounded by not allowing an earned run in any of his next eight appearances. From April 19th to May 9th, Moore had an ERA of 0.00 over 15 innings, a stretch which included both his first MLB win and save. He quickly rose in the Yankees’ esteem, and would eventually be entrusted with his first ever MLB start as part of a doubleheader on May 28th. While he took the loss that day, Moore allowed just three runs, only two of which were earned, in a full nine innings.
Moore would make 12 starts over the course of the season, but was mostly used as a multi-inning reliever. He was extremely successful in both roles, as the Yankees went 36-13 — with one tie — in the games he appeared in. He finished the year with a 2.28 ERA in 213 innings, which qualified for and won him the ERA title. His 13 saves also led the league.
One thing Moore was not particularly great at was hitting. One story goes that after watching him attempt to hit during spring training, Babe Ruth made a bet that Moore wouldn’t record three hits all season. Moore did get there, and used the money he won from Ruth to buy two mules, which he then named after the Bambino. Moore did only record six hits on the season, finishing with a .080 batting average.
True to his season, Moore filled both pitching roles during the Yankees’ World Series run. In Game 1, he threw the final 1.2 innings as the Yankees hung on to a 5-4 win. He then got the start and threw a complete game in the clinching Game 4 victory, as the Yankees capped off their incredible season.
Moore didn’t quite follow up on his incredible debut season, and was below average in both 1928 and ‘29. That eventually saw him traded to a minor league team in November 1929. The Red Sox later picked him up, and he spent 1931 and part of ‘32 there, still not quite getting back to his 1927 best. In August of ‘32, he was reunited with the Yankees after a trade, helping them to another World Series win. However, he fell off again in ‘33 and never played in the major leagues again.
Wilcy Moore’s career may have been brief, but it was important. The 1927 Yankees would’ve been good with or without him, but he was still an integral piece to one of the most historic seasons in baseball history.