Friday, October 26, 2012

#453 - Balor Moore

We now segue from a first round pick for the Cubs to the first round pick for the Expos. Balor Moore was the first player ever drafted by Montreal ex the expansion draft. When he was a hard-throwing high school pitcher in Texas he was deemed the left-handed version of Nolan Ryan. Things wouldn’t quite turn out that way and when this card came out it was a pretty pivotal time for Balor. While his sophomore season of ‘73 didn’t quite match up to his rookie year it had its moments. By July he was 4-10 with a 4.95 ERA and was sent down to the minors. When he returned in August he blanked the Cards in a complete game. He then went 2-6 the rest of the way during the pennant run. But there was still promise as he finished second in the NL in strikeouts per nine innings and then in winter ball he threw the first perfect game ever in Puerto Rico. Unfortunately ’74 would be a hot mess as he hurt first his ankle and then his elbow and moved from the Expos’ promising list to their doghouse. His flame-throwing days were over but Balor was a resilient guy and down the road he’d be a big success.

Balor Moore went 25-9 as a high school pitcher just outside Houston but, as he said, the defense behind him was never that hot as evidenced by the three no-hitters he threw: he lost all of them. The Expos and other teams were high on him when he graduated in ’69 but so were the Longhorns. The former group decided to make their bid after seeing him pitch one last time but unfortunately that game was a start after a state tournament in which he threw 27 innings in a weekend and Balor’s arm was tight and tired. The word was that he was injured and so all MLB teams but Montreal walked. The Expos gave him a tryout and after he struck out nine guys out of twelve they offered him $20,000. Balor said no thanks, signed with Texas, and then pitched an American Legion game in which he struck out 14 in five innings. Montreal reconsidered, upped their bid to $30,000, and Balor signed. The Expos must have been pretty happy when he tore up both Rookie and A ball that summer. In ’70 he picked up where he left off in A ball, got called up for a couple starts in Triple A, and then to Montreal for a May debut. The first outing went well but the next few innings didn’t and he was returned to Triple A for the duration of the season. There – shades of Tommy John from a couple posts ago – he was forced to learn a slider to complement his fastball and curve. All that really did was contribute to his declining control and to things bottoming out with a terrible first half of ’71 in Winnipeg. What saved Balor was his Army hitch that summer which took him away from baseball for nine months. When he returned in ’72 he put together a nice season at Double A Quebec and then got promoted to Montreal.

Moore had a pretty lame start to his ’72 stay in Montreal, going 0-3 with an ERA over 6.00 in his first few starts. But things improved markedly each month and by the end of the year he had nearly ten strikeouts per nine innings and seemed to deliver on his promise. Then in ’73 came more pressure to use the slider, a significant ramp-up in walks, and the short stint in the minors. In ’74 the control was still an issue but he improved his ERA to under 4.00 in a couple starts and had 16 K’s in 13 innings before he hurt his ankle. Sent down to Triple A to work on his control and rehab he hurt the elbow, had a couple disastrous outings, and was done for the season. After starting off the ’75 season still in Triple A with 45 walks in 27 innings Montreal – the organization never bought that his arm was hurt – sold Balor to the Angels. For them he threw much better in a few stints in A ball – a 0.96 ERA in four starts – before Frank Jobe removed bone chips from Balor’s elbow. Rehab was tough in ’76 – a 6-12 record with a 5.55 ERA in Double A – but a combined 6-4 season with a 3.52 ERA out of the pen in '77 at a couple minor league levels got Balor back to the majors where he went 0-2 with a 3.97 ERA in a few games of swing work. Early in the ’78 season he was sold to Toronto. Seems the Texas boy couldn’t stay away from Canada.

Moore looked like a good pick-up for the Blue Jays early in the ’78 season when he had a 4-1 record with a 3.18 ERA and re-established his control. Unfortunately that run was more of a blip than a resurgence and the rest of the way he was 2-8 with an ERA approaching 6.00. He would stick with Toronto through the ’80 season, going a combined 12-17 for the Blue Jays with an ERA just south of 5.00 up top and a bit worse in a few games in the minors. After being released in September 1980 he hooked up with both the Milwaukee and Houston organizations in ’81 but didn’t do too well at their Triple A levels. That finished him up in baseball with a record of 28-48, 16 complete games, four shutouts, a save, and a 4.52 ERA at the MLB level and 43-63 with a 3.90 ERA in the minors.

Though he spent a major part of his career up north, Moore returned to Texas full-time post-career and got involved in a whole new one, becoming an officer at Brittex Pipe Company in the early Eighties and the company’s owner in ’84. He continues to run the pipeline company and plays lots of golf as well as in an occasional old-timers game.

Balor’s start to his career was pretty amazing and it took a while for his ERA to have a number before the decimal point. I don’t know what this guy was doing fooling around with the Longhorns before he signed. Seems to me Baylor would have been the best choice.

So just because I’m too busy to look up Watergate stuff I am going to revive another event-type commentary to close the posts. In 1976 MLB had each team submit its best moment to the league to honor its centennial. For Montreal it was its home opener in ’69. That game occurred on April 14th at old Jarry Park – or Parc Jarry if you were Canadian – and the Expos won 8-7 over the Cardinals. The winning pitcher was Dan McGinn who pitched over five shutout innings in relief of Larry Jaster and the hitting star was Mack Jones, who knocked in five runs with a triple and a homer.

So these two guys were in the same division but probably didn’t run into each other too much:

1. Moore and Bill Stoneman ’70 and ’72 to ’73 Expos;
2. Stoneman and Ron Santo ’67 to ’68 Cubs;
3. Santo and Gene Hiser ‘’71 to ’73 Cubs.

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