The baseball lifer who became one of Anniston’s most popular players

Dee Moore with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1943.

The Anniston Rams thought so much of D.C. “Dee” Moore that they twice honored him at Johnston Field with “Dee Moore Nights,” a double-barreled celebration that never happened in his stints with the Cincinnati Reds, Brooklyn Dodgers or Philadelphia Phillies. Truth be told, Moore was good enough to play in the Major Leagues but not good enough to stick very long.

What Moore was was a baseball lifer. A Texan by birth who came of age in California, he played his first professional game as a 19-year-old with the 1933 Los Angeles Angels of the Pacific Coast League. He suited up a final time in 1957 with the independent Brandon (Manitoba) Greys of the Manitoba-Dakota League. All told he played nearly 1,800 professional games over 23 seasons, slowed only by a stint in the U.S. Marines during World War II.

Anniston, though, was arguably Moore’s zenith, a place where he had more success in the two partial seasons he played with (and managed) the Rams than he did in any of his myriad baseball stops. Twice he made the Southeastern League All-Star team despite failing to play a full season either year in Anniston. If modern-day Anniston were to carve a Mount Rushmore of the Rams, Moore would be a prime candidate.

Alas, the Rams were terrible in 1941, finishing in seventh place in the Southeastern League with a 64-76 record, but Moore was sensational — .337 average, 20 home runs, 21 doubles in 124 games. And then he came back. He replicated those numbers in 1942, hitting .348 with 26 doubles and 13 homers in 97 games before his contract was sold that July to New Orleans of the Southern Association.

A 1941 clipping from The Anniston Star.

Baseball lifers like Moore aren’t singular stories; they’re books with multiple chapters. His is a story dominated by longevity and versatility — two-plus decades as a catcher, a pitcher, a productive hitter, a manager — several go-arounds in the Major Leagues, and his eye-popping performance with the Rams.

Moore stands out, though, for this Ram rarity: Instead of being a former big-leaguer playing out his days in Anniston, he played in the National League before becoming a Ram and after leaving the Rams. Granted, Moore was one of the many fringe pros who took advantage of wartime shortages of Major League talent to claim roster spots. But he didn’t merely earn a cup of coffee at the end of a putrid team’s season. His 98 career MLB games were spread out over four seasons (1936, 1937, 1943, 1946) — a wartime journeyman worthy of a roster spot but incapable of holding on to it long term.

A 1936 clipping from the Cincinnati Inquirer.

By the time he arrived in Anniston in the late spring of 1941 Moore had been a pro for eight years and enjoyed two late-season appearances with Cincinnati. In ’36 he tore up the South Atlantic League, hitting 18 home runs with Macon, before the Reds bought his contract in September for $5,000. The Cincinnati Inquirer earlier that month had predicted his rise. “Keep your eye on a lad named Dee Moore, with Macon, Ga., of the Sally League. He’s almost a sure bet with the Cincinnati Reds soon.”

He made his MLB debut at Baker Bowl on Sept. 12 in a 7-1 loss to Philadelphia; he pinch-hit in the top of the ninth, flying out to center field for the game’s final out. But in six games he went 4 for 10 with two doubles and a triple. The following year, his second Reds stint wasn’t as promising: 1 for 13 in seven games.

He wouldn’t make a Major League roster for another six seasons.

The Rams weren’t bothered by Moore’s slowed ascension. They’d had just one winning season since they organized in 1938 — a 71-70 mark in 1939 — and they needed players. Moore fit the bill: versatile, good hitter, big-league experience. Struggling in Birmingham with the Barons, Moore signed with the Class B Rams in early May, reuniting him with Dick Porter, the Rams manager who’d been with Moore in one of his earlier stops. By season’s end he’d posted Anniston’s top batting average and led the team in home runs. For good measure he’d taken over as manager when Porter resigned in August to tend to business affairs in Saulsbury, Maryland.

Moore had never managed, and he wasn’t particularly keen on the idea, either.

“Dee Moore was unwilling to take over the responsibility of managing the team,” The Anniston Star newspaper wrote, “… but Porter asked him as a personal favor to help him out until he can get his business affairs straight again.” Moore didn’t turn down his manager and friend’s request, making him a player-manager who served as the Rams’ regular catcher, filled in as a relief pitcher — he threw 22 innings in 1941 — and directed the team, too.

Without an offer from a higher-level squad, Moore decided in December to come back for another season as player-manager at Johnston Field.

It would be his last in Anniston. He and the Rams started slow, but by late May he’d raised his batting average above .300 and regained his stride. Not long after his second SEL All-Star Game appearance Moore was sold to New Orleans, a St. Louis Cardinals farm team in need of a veteran bat and catcher. His time in Anniston was over.

A pall of mourning hung over Johnston Field.

Ted York, The Star’s sports editor, described Moore as “one of the greatest catchers ever to wear a Ram uniform.” (Never mind that the team had only existed since 1938.) “His popularity as a player, not only in Anniston but around the league, was not impaired by his managing duties. With all fairness to other men on the local club, Dee was ‘The Ram.’ A Mobile player recently said, ‘Everybody likes Dee.’ Insofar as we know, the Shipper was 100 percent correct.

1942 clipping from The Anniston Star.

“Moore leaves Anniston as the number two batter in the Southeastern League, having a .347 batting mark, despite an early season slump that lasted three or four weeks. At the present he has hit 13 home runs, nine triples and 25 doubles for a 178 total-base mark. A catcher by trade, the Ram skipper has, in addition, pitched in several games and ‘plugged up’ both infield and outfield posts on numerous occasions.

A 1943 clipping from
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

“Yes, Dee will be missed — in more ways than one.”

Moore hit .304 in New Orleans, his stock rising as a viable platoon player in MLB. He’d earned a reputation for personal failings that dogged him for a decade, but Brooklyn president Branch Rickey drafted him in November, hoping the 29-year-old would bolster the Dodgers’ catching corps and stay out of trouble.

“When Moore was taken to New Orleans last season, I promised him a chance in the majors if he behaved himself,” Rickey told United Press International. “He did and by drafting him I’m carrying out my part of the bargain.”

Moore was well aware of the gift he’d received. In less than a year’s time he’d gone from playing Class B baseball in Anniston to joining the NL’s Dodgers and Manager Leo Durocher.

“I was with the Cincinnati Reds in 1936,” Moore told UPI, “but kicked away my chances of sticking in the majors because of bad habits. After the Reds let me go I was with Nashville, Syracuse, Indianapolis, Birmingham, Anniston and New Orleans. It’s a great break for a fellow like me to get back into the big leagues, and I’m trying to make the most of it.”

In Brooklyn he caught, played third and seemed to be on a roll akin to the one he enjoyed in Anniston — not all-star quality, but quality enough.

“He’s been a life-saver,” Durocher said. “He’s looked real good since going to third base. Dee has good power at the plate and his ability to play several positions gives him added value.”

“I was with the Cincinnati Reds in 1936, but kicked away my chances of sticking in the majors because of bad habits … It’s a great break for a fellow like me to get back into the big leagues, and I’m trying to make the most of it.”

– Dee Moore

Those good tidings lasted only a few months. That summer Durocher faced a player revolt over his suspension of Bobo Newsom, with whom he’d argued. Most of the Dodgers threatened to boycott the next day’s game, a threat that didn’t materialize. Rickey started moving players, including Moore, who’d sided with the threatened strike.

Moore played just 37 games with the Dodgers, who placed him on waivers; the Philadelphia Phillies picked him up for $7,500. “It looked as if he was set for the season until a month ago when he entered the ‘doghouse,’ where he’d held forth until Rickey waived him to the Phillies,” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle wrote.

Moore played out the remainder of the ’43 season with the Phillies, hitting .239 in 130 games. And then the military called. He joined the Marines in September and spent the final war years in San Diego and Hawaii, where he played as much military baseball as he did perform Marine duties. The Phillies brought the 32-year-old Moore back late in ’46, but he hit just .077 in 11 games. The following spring he didn’t make the big-league roster.

A 1943 clipping from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

After 98 games with a combined .232 batting average and a single home run — a solo shot off Harry Brecheen in a 6-4 Phillies win over the St. Louis Cardinals at Sportsman’s Park on July 28, 1943 — his MLB career was over.

His pro baseball career was not.

For the next decade this baseball lifer hopped around the country, suiting up for Sacramento and San Diego, Ogden and Winnipeg, Mexicali and Brandon, Visalia and Williston, most years serving as a player-manager just as he did in Anniston. He was 43 when he played and managed his final game in 1957.

Williston is where he lived and worked as an assistant hotel manager until his death in 1997. He was 83.

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