Good But, Not Great- Part Four
The Off-Season: Good But, Not Great- Part Four
By Tim Kabel
February 3, 2022
So far, I have written three articles about Yankees’ players who were good but, not great. These players were not Hall of Famers. However, they were key components of their teams. In many cases, they were the backbone of World Series championship teams. I started off with Bernie Williams and stayed in the outfield with a player from an earlier era, Hank Bauer, for the next article. Next, I moved to the infield and wrote about a good but, not great Yankee from the 70’s World Series Championship teams, Chris Chambliss. (These articles can be found at the end of this post.)
Today, I will stay at first base but, I will go back to an earlier era.
William Joseph Skowron was born in 1930 in Chicago, Illinois, and was of Polish descent. His father was a city garbage collector. One day, his grandfather gave the seven-year-old Bill Skowron a haircut resembling that of Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini. Bill’s friends jokingly called him “Mussolini”, which his family wisely shortened to “Moose”. The nickname stuck with him for the rest of his life,
Skowron attended Weber high school in Chicago, before going to Purdue University in Indiana on a football scholarship. However, Skowron soon figured out that he was better suited to baseball, hitting.500 as a sophomore in 1950, a record in the Big Ten conference that lasted 10 years. Following his sophomore year, Skowron was signed to play baseball for the Austin (Minnesota) Packers. He hit .343 in 23 games and displayed some power. He did so well, that the Yankees made him a contract offer. Skowron signed with the Yankees in September 1950 as an amateur free agent.
Skowron played his first game for New York on April 13th, 1954. At the beginning, he was platooned at first base with Joe Collins but, from 1958 on, he became the Yankees full-time first baseman. He played in seven American League All Star games as a Yankee. (For some reason, two All-Star games were played each year from 1959 through 1962). Skowron played on eight World Series teams and was on the winning side five times. He played in seven World Series with the Yankees, winning four of them. He played in one World Series with the Dodgers in 1963, which they won by beating the Yankees. He is one of only six players in MLB history to have won back-to-back World Series Championships on different teams.
As a Yankee, Skowron batted .294 with 165 home runs and 672 RBI over 9 years. He was a consistent and reliable performer. He seemed to rise to the occasion in the postseason. In eight World Series, he played 39 games and batted .293 with eight home runs and 29 RBI. Skowron made the last out of the 1957 World Series but, the following year, he knocked in the winning run in Game 6 of the 1958 World Series. Skowron also hit a three-run home run in Game 7 to propel the Yankees to a World Series win, and a comeback from a 3-1 Series deficit. He also scored the only run in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series.
In his heart, Skowron was always a Yankee. After the 1962 season, he was traded to the Dodgers for pitcher, Stan Williams. Skowron seriously considered retiring and taking a coaching offer at Purdue University. Ultimately, he played for the Dodgers but, his spirit wasn’t in it. He batted only 203 with four home runs that season. However, in the World Series, he broke out. He batted .385 with a home run and slugged .615 as the Dodgers swept the Yankees in four games. He was also featured in the episode of Mr. Ed, in which the titular horse tried out for the Dodgers. Skowron had an interesting encounter with another famous blonde from Hollywood. He and some other Yankees players once went out to dinner with Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe. Skowron stated he was so nervous, he shaved four times that day in preparation for the dinner.
Skowron was a powerful, right-handed hitter who was hurt by the vast dimensions of left and left-center field at Yankee Stadium. He still put up very solid numbers as a Yankee. He was also an excellent teammate and was well liked by everyone. In 1964, Skowron was with the Chicago White Sox, a team that was in a tight pennant race with the Yankees. The White Sox manager, Eddie Stanky, hated the Yankees with a passion. He had a rule that if any of the White Sox players spoke to the opposition, they would be fined $100. In a game against the Yankees, Mickey Mantle reached first base. Skowron was playing first base and moved to the bag to hold him on. Mantle started talking to Skowron, who ignored him, even though they were good friends. Finally Mantle asked what was going on.
Skowron broke his silence. “Mick, I can’t talk. It’ll cost me $100.”
Mantle couldn’t believe it. “What? I made you all that money with the Yankees and you’re going to let $100 break up our friendship?”
Skowron smiled sheepishly and turned to the White Sox dugout and shouted to Stanky,
“Go ahead and find me! I’m talking to this guy.”
Mantle and Skowron both laughed. Stankey fined Skowron.
Skowron was a steady and solid performer for the Yankees, who battled injuries through most of his career but, was still a major contributor to four Yankees World Series Championships. He is one of only two players to hit three home runs in game 7’s of the World Series. The other player was Yogi Berra. Moose Skowron was another example of the good but, not great Yankees’; players who were integral parts of their success as a franchise. He was also my sister Pat’s favorite player; she named her German shepherd, Moose, after him.
Previous Articles in This Series: