Baseball is not life and death. It is a game. It is entertainment. The worst thing that can happen is a team loses.
Fans sometime have a hard time remembering that and like to pretend that the fate of a bunch of grown men, usually NOT from the town that they play for, playing a game has a great significance for the psyche of a community and they live and die with their teams.
Donnie Moore is a player whose myth after his death is one of a player who took the pain of losing to the extreme. The reality of his death was worse.
Moore was a reliever who came up through the Cubs system. When this 1979 card was issued, he was establishing himself as an innings eating long man, albeit with a too high ERA.
After bouncing around between the Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers and Braves, Moore landed in California where he put together an All Star season with the Angels. That earned him a multimillion dollar contract. He bought a mansion in Orange County and moved his wife and kids in.
Then 1986 happened. An injury plagued season cut down on his effectiveness. But the Angels got to within one strike of the World Series. With Moore on the mound, he was about to clinch the greatest moment in franchise history.
Instead he gave up the Dave Henderson homer. The Angels tied the game in the 9th and the two fought in extra innings. Inexplicably, Gene Mauch let Moore pitch into the 11th where he let up the go ahead run. The Angels lost the game and a few days later lost the series.
Three years later, Donnie Moore committed suicide, many people saying he never got over the pressure and criticism of coughing up the 1986 ALCS.
It was an easy mythology to sell. Fans WANT to believe that players care so much that they would put a gun to themselves.
The reality was much more grim. Moore had abused Tonya, his wife, since they were teenagers. Moore’s abuse made her a prisoner in her own house which was increased if she ever spoke to another man. His alcohol abuse made it worse.
As his career was crumbling after a failed comeback attempt with the Royals, Moore chased his wife around his house with a gun and shot Tonya in the chest and neck.
He then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide in front of his 3 children. Tonya survived the wounds but the effects of the tragedy must still be felt by his kids.
The narrative of him being haunted by the Henderson homer was oddly more romantic than dealing with the harrowing reality of domestic abuse, something that hasn’t changed much now.
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