World Series champ who played in Austin dies

NEW YORK — Moose Skowron, a five-time World Series champion with Austin ties and one of only two players to hit three home runs in a Game 7, died Friday of congestive heart failure at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, Ill. He was 81.

Skowron helped the New York Yankees win four titles in the 1950s and 1960s.

“There weren’t many better guys than Moose,” said former teammate Yogi Berra, the only other player with three Game 7 homers in the Series. “He was a dear friend and a great team man. A darn good ballplayer, too.”

Before the Yankees made him an offer, Skowron was attending Purdue University. He came to Austin after his sophomore year to play for the Austin Packers amateur baseball team, now named the Austin Greyhounds. The team’s home field was Marcusen Park, according to the Marcusen Park Baseball Association.

“Moose came out of Purdue pretty close to 1950,” said Emery Thompson, who played for the Packers for five or six years. “He was a punter on the football team for Purdue.”

Thompson, now 86, met Skowron while on the team.

“He was here a good year,” Thompson said. “I remember when he first came here he hit some of those home runs over the light polls out there. I can’t say enough good things about Moose. He was a very nice man. Very quiet.”

Skowron later became a star first baseman with the Yankees and went on to appear in eight All-Star games over six seasons.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig called him “an integral part of the wonderful Yankee teams of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.”

“He was a wonderful storyteller and an important link to a great era in baseball history,” Selig said.

After Skowron’s playing career he returned to Chicago, where he was born and had worked for the White Sox since 1999 in the team’s community relations department, making appearances.

“We all have lost a dear, dear friend today,” White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf said. “While Moose may have become a star in New York with the Yankees, he was a Chicagoan through and through. I certainly will miss his priceless stories about Casey Stengel, Roger Maris, Hank Bauer and of course, his good friend, Mickey Mantle. … My guess is that right now Mickey, Roger, Hank and Moose are enjoying a good laugh together.”

Skowron played for the Yankees from 1954-62, then won a fifth title with Los Angeles in the first season after he was dealt to the Dodgers for Stan Williams. He hit .282 in 14 major league seasons with 211 home runs and 888 RBIs, also spending time with the expansion Washington Senators (1964), the White Sox (1964-67) and the California Angels (1967). He was an All-Star from 1957-61, appearing in both games in 1959 and 1960, then was picked one final time in 1965.

He was beloved by Yankees fans for his clutch performances in three World Series Game 7s. He hit a seventh-inning grand slam off Roger Craig in a 9-0 win over Brooklyn in 1956, and a three-run homer against Lew Burdette in the eighth inning of a 6-2 win over Milwaukee in 1958. He also had a leadoff drive in the fifth inning off Vernon Law in 1960, when the Yankees overcame a four-run deficit at Pittsburgh to take a 7-4 lead only to lose 10-9.

Skowron had a .293 World Series average with eight homers and 29 RBIs in 39 games.

Born William Joseph Skowron on Chicago’s North Side, he said he was given the nickname Moose when he was 7 after his grandfather gave him a haircut that caused friends to call him “Mussolini” — after the Italian fascist leader. The nickname was shortened to Moose.

He is survived by wife Lorraine (nicknamed Cookie), daughter Lynnette, sons Greg and Steve, brother Edward and four grandchildren. According to the Chicago Tribune, visitation for Skowron was held Monday in Niles, Ill. and a funeral mass was scheduled for today in Chicago.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

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