20: A Charlie Moore Odyssey

It began innocently enough for Brewers catcher Charlie Moore: a two-out single in the last of the eighth off Detroit reliever Ed Glynn, the final hit of the night in Milwaukee’s 6-0 win over the Tigers at County Stadium on May 17th. The boxscore would show that designated hitter Larry Hisle led all batters with a double, a home run, and two RBI, and that Brewers starter Bill Travers shut down the Tigers on four hits, earning his first win. But for Moore’s late-inning base hit, which had no affect on the outcome, it mostly went unnoticed.

The next day, Moore connected for a single in an 8-1 Brewers win, and in the two games he’d start against the Angels in the three-game series that followed, he’d collect two more hits, including one in the infamous ‘Sixto Lezcano Game’ of May 19th. Four straight games, with one hit in each…at the time it wasn’t worthy of mention, but 16 games and 22 hits later, the 24-year-old from Birmingham, Alabama would possess the longest hitting streak of the young season at 20 games, and along the way would become an SP78 legend.

“I’d just come off a seven-game streak, and I was more than happy with that one,” said Moore, when asked about his accomplishment. “I never thought I’d even make it to ten, much less twenty.”

With Buck Martinez out with an injury, Moore became the team’s primary catcher, and would tie that seven-game streak on May 26th, in his first at-bat, with a double off Angels ace Nolan Ryan. It would be Moore’s only extra-base hit of the streak, and kicked off his best game of the odyssey, a 3-for-5 night with a run scored, in a 9-5 Brewers triumph. After posting three more hits over the next two games, Moore took a day off—allowing third-stringer Andy Etchebarren to get some playing time—before coming back on May 30th and reaching the ten-game milestone with his lone hit of the night, a sixth-inning base hit off Steve Renko of the A’s.

In that same game, teammate Paul Molitor’s own streak ended at eleven, and the following morning, the Milwaukee Sentinel made note of both achievements in their preview of that evening’s Tigers-Brewers match-up, stating that “Bamberger’s crew was on a roll, thanks in part to backstop Moore, hitting a robust .333 during his current ten-game consecutive hit streak, and second baseman Molitor, whose 11-game run was stopped yesterday.” However, Moore’s run nearly came to a close as well that night, after he’d gone without a hit in his first three at-bats; fortunately, a Milwaukee rally in the ninth allowed him one more visit to the plate, and he stroked a solid single off Tigers ace John Hiller to extend the string.

On the first day of June, Moore made it an even dozen with a 6th-inning hit off Steve Baker at Detroit, and when the team returned home for a critical 4-game weekend series against the Indians, Brewers president Bud Selig made an announcement: for each game that Moore continued his streak past his current total, he would be awarded a $100 bonus. Well, not only did Moore hit safely in all three of the games he played that weekend, but the Brewers swept all four games to move within 1½ games of the first-place Yankees in the AL East. It also put Moore just one game behind the team’s hit-streak leader for the season, Robin Yount, who’d reached 16 before an injury forced him out of action for two weeks. Oddly enough, he would return to the lineup on June 6th…the same day Moore would be trying to tie him at 16.

Now the baseball world was beginning to take notice; with two members of the same team battling each other for a long-standing baseball record, it reminded many of the classic Mantle-Maris chase of Ruth’s home run mark in 1961. The sellout crowd that packed into County Stadium on a warm Tuesday night was kept on edge for most of the game, as both players went hitless through eight with the scored knotted at five; with one out in the ninth, Moore singled to reach 16, tying Yount, who one extra frame later would untie it with a one-out triple, again taking the team lead with 17. But that would end it for the All-Star shortstop, who went 0-for-4 the next night against Milt Wilcox, and settled for third-place—albeit temporarily—on the all-time Brewers hit streak list.

Moore, on the other hand, was still going strong. While Yount was coming up empty against Wilcox on Wednesday, Moore was tying him at 17 with a single in his third and final at-bat, in a 4-1 rain-shortened Milwaukee win. With no game on Thursday, Moore returned to County Stadium on Friday night, June 9th, rested and ready to face Jim Clancy and the last-place Blue Jays, in front of another frenzied, sell-out crowd. This time, he delivered in his first trip to the plate, dropping a bloop single to left that barely eluded the reach of third baseman Roy Howell; he had now hit in 18 consecutive games, surpassing Yount and tying former Pilots outfielder Tommy Davis—who’d played one season for the expansion Seattle club in 1969—for second all-time in franchise history.

Another packed house was on hand Saturday for ‘Scout Night’ at County Stadium, and with Moore now bumped up to the second spot in the batting order by manager George Bamberger, the partisan crowd did not have to wait long to erupt, as Moore slapped a solid base hit to center off Jays starter Balor Moore in the opening frame to make it 19 straight. With the SP78 AL mark already pocketed, all that stood in Moore’s way for the Brewers franchise mark was Dave May, who’d hit safely in 24 straight in 1974, and after moving on to the Braves and Rangers, had returned to the Brewers this season, and was currently playing for their AAA club in Spokane.

For their Sunday afternoon twinbill against Toronto, Moore was slated to catch in Game 1, with Etchebarren taking over backstop duties in Game 2. For whatever reason, Bamberger had dropped Moore down to the seventh spot in the order, but it didn’t matter: Moore again connected in his first at-bat, driving a line shot between third and short off starting right-hander Jesse Jefferson, and as easily and quickly as that, Moore had hit safely in 20 consecutive games. As he stood on first, with a standing-room-only crowd cheering wildly around him, the historic ball was tossed to the Milwaukee dugout, where it would end up on display at the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in downtown Milwaukee.

Sadly, the streak would end the following evening, June 12th, at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, when Tigers starter Jim Slaton (who’d spent the previous seven seasons with Milwaukee) shut down the Brewers offense on four hits, losing a shutout in the ninth but holding on for a 4-1 win. Moore went 0-for-3 in the game, with a strikeout and two infield groundouts, and he would be charged with his first error of the season, on Ron LeFlore’s steal attempt in the ninth. But this game didn’t tarnish the streak, for Moore or anyone else: 26 hits in 80 at-bats during the stretch, good for a .325 average, and a starting nod at catcher for each of the twenty games. He also inspired his squad to a 19-6 won-lost mark during that time, resulting in a jump from fourth place to second in the AL East.

“Without a doubt, the highlight of my career,” Moore told reporters after the game. “And that bonus ain’t bad, either.”

 

 

 

 

10 responses to “20: A Charlie Moore Odyssey

  1. $800?! After all that? No respect! And this is AFTER the Reserve Clause was abolished ending the stingy owners death grip on the throats of ballplayers. Somebody give him a car or something.

  2. Well! In “real life” 1978, Moore went 3 for 4 with a dinger and 4 RBI off Slaton, so it’s a bit odd that the SP78 gods gave him the collar on that fateful night! Oh, those cruel Fast Action Cards!

    • I didn’t even think to look that up, so thanks for that info! Interesting that Slaton pitched in that game, too. And yes, the SP78 gods can be unforgiving at times…just ask Steve Ontiveros.

  3. After 14 years of baseball Charlie Moore had to get a real life job as a fastener salesman. If his bonus only had a few more zeros on it as players get today, oh wait, then he wouldn’t hustle to first base and would show up late for spring training!

    • I’m guessing that you did a little research, and that post-baseball job of his was real…I don’t think you would’ve thought of ‘fastener salesman’ if you were making something up! I wonder how he got into that line of work; Biff Pocoroba just passed away, and I found out he was a sausage maker after baseball, so who knows.

  4. You forgot to mention on top of the cash bonus Charlie received a case a month from Pabst Blue Ribbon. After hearing about this, Old Style jumped in with 2 cases a month.

  5. To keep the Charlie movement going, is that the 78 Topps playing card? If so is it from your collection and do you have the entire 78 set as a supplement to the SP78 series?

    • Yes, the ’78 one…I’ll always use a Topps card from ’78 if I’m going to use a card in a post…seems sacrilegious to use one from another year! And though I do have it in my collection, and I do have the entire Topps 1978 set, I’ll normally use an image of a card I find on-line; when I scan one myself, it never seems to look all that great.

      And I’m sure Charlie Moore appreciates your efforts to keep his shining moment alive.

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