Sunday, July 21, 2013
#453 Les Moss
This is one of my favorite cards in the '59 set. First of all Ohio native Les Moss was an original Baltimore Oriole having come over with the club from St. Louis for the '54 season. He's wearing a uniform I favor, the simple White Sox road gray of the mid/late 50s with the sleeve number. And finally he is posing in the classic catchers' pose, the 'baseball card squat' and has the facade, lights and flags of the original Yankee Stadium displayed behind him.
Moss' professional baseball career was long and varied. He spent all or parts of 13 big league seasons with four AL clubs beginning with the Browns in 1946 and ending with the White Sox in 1958. Never an everyday catcher, Moss has six or so years in which he carried about half the load behind the plate. While never an All Star or dangerous hitter, Moss did have some seasons with double digit homers and respectable batting averages. His primary skill, however, was as a defensive standout and he was known as an exceptional handler of pitchers.
By the time this card was issued Moss was no longer a major leaguer. In fact he had had only two at bats in 1958 despite having been on the White Sox roster all that year. He served as the teams' bullpen and third catcher for the season and got into only two games. In 1959 and 1960 he was transitioning from active player to the coaching and scouting jobs by working in the Sox organization at the major league and AAA level and occasionally playing for the Sox' San Diego farm club.
From that point forward Moss held scouting, coaching and managerial jobs until he finally left the game in 1995. He managed in the majors with the White Sox on two occasions in the late 60s as interim skipper and he took the reigns of the Tigers in 1979. Just when it appeared that Moss, called a 'faithful soldier' by some, was going to get a long deserved shot at a full time managerial gig, Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson came available and the Tigers jumped. Just 53 games into that '79 season, and with Moss directing his club to a one game over .500 record, Detroit, not wanting Anderson to take another available job, kicked Moss to the curb and signed the former Reds' manager.
Moss bounced back by taking a job in the Cubs' organization as a pitching coach/instructor and then in 1982 he joined the Astros as pitching coach and outlasted several managers in Houston. He was very well thought of and respected by the Houston press and the fans. He moved on to the Giants' organization and served as pitching coordinator before finally retiring in 1995.
A long and distinguished career leads to a lot of kudos and Moss, who died in 2012, has a rather interesting SABR bio. It's recommended reading.
Here is Les Moss' '54 Bowman. Part of my Orioles collection.
And here is the 1979 Topps Tigers Team card featuring Les Moss.