Moose was bigger than life

Updated 4/27/2012 9:52 PM

The city and suburbs lost one of their great ones this week.

Bill "Moose" Skowron was a community ambassador for the White Sox since 1999, mingling with fans during games.

Everyone loved the Chicago native and Schaumburg resident, partly because he was a five-time World Series champion and mostly because he was one of the most engaging people you'll ever meet.

Before Sox games, Moose often stopped in Comiskey Park's press box to talk baseball with scouts, writers and broadcasters.

I was too much in awe of Moose to approach him, introduce myself and tell him, well, how much in awe I was of him.

Then one night Scott Reifert, at the time the Sox' public-relations director, came up to me to say, "Moose reads your column and would like to meet you."

It remains one of the biggest thrills of my sports writing career. That's no exaggeration. It still means that much to me.

Moose and I became friends and had lunch together a couple of times every winter. We would meet at Murphy's in Arlington Heights, where Moose was an old friend of the owner and of others who frequent the place.

Now Murphy's, Comiskey Park and all of baseball are in mourning. Moose Skowron died Thursday night at age 81 of congestive heart failure after a couple of long bouts with cancer.

Moose was one of the big-name baseball stars I grew up following. Locally back then were players like Ernie Banks and Nellie Fox. Nationally were players like Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams.

Each was 10 feet tall, including the bigger-than-life one nicknamed Moose. He played for the Sox from 1964-67 but gained fame as an integral member of the great Yankees teams that included Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra Whitey Ford, Billy Martin and Elston Howard.

No athletes mean more than the ones from your youth, and Moose's generation of players still represents to me what baseball is all about.

So, yes, my goodness, what a privilege it was to sit across a lunch table from Moose Skowron, an eight-time all-star who played in eight World Series, and hear him talk about the game.

Moose was one of the great storytellers of all time who had stories -- some suitable for a family newspaper and some not -- about his great contemporaries.

"Moose," I might say, "do you remember that bench-clearing brawl in Comiskey Park where Larry Doby, Walt Dropo and Enos Slaughter went at it?"

That's all it took. Moose would embark on a detailed version of the event and then finish up with a kicker.

"I tackled Doby before he could get to the pitcher," Moose grinned. "Dropo came in and grabbed me and pulled my pants down."

It was almost like Moose was everywhere noteworthy in those days, like the game in which Gil McDougald's line drive fractured Herb Score's face and aborted one of baseball's most promising pitching careers.

"I was leading off first base when it happened," Moose grimaced.

Mention a player from the 1950s -- especially anyone on the star-studded Yankees from manager Casey Stengel to the backup catcher -- and Moose had a tale to tell.

Moose even had dinner with Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, which probably explains why I was so excited that he would have lunch with me.

Not to mention that he never let me pick up the check.

Bill "Moose" Skowron will be missed here, there and everywhere.

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