A Fan's Day with "The 20's"
by Skeet Wootten
He is a remarkable 80 years old with a twinkle in his eye and the look of contentment about his place in life. He’s the proud father of five children (four girls and one boy) and speaks fondly of his grandchildren. He’s watched profound change in society from a unique position as a parent, an educator and coach, and as a baseball player.

His name is Wally Moon.

He played on three World Championship teams, was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1954, beating out Henry Aaron and Ernie Banks
Des Moines resident Skeet Wootten (left) spends the day with a couple former St. Louis Cardinal greats, Lou Brock (middle) and Wally Moon.
Both players wore #20 during their Cardinal careers. The number is
now retired in Brock's honor.
for the honor, hit 142 home runs in his career and is now a legend from baseball’s golden age.

I don’t remember Wally as a player, but I had the privilege of meeting him when he came to Iowa to see fans and sign a few autographs.

I met Wall at the airport as a favor to an old college friend. When he came down the escalator he looked like many other men in the twilight of their lives. White hair, slightly stooped, the wrinkled skin of a man who spent time outdoors. He has a bit of a shuffle that two new hips have helped out.

Over dinner Wally told me about his life, his children and grandchildren, the struggles his wife had to overcome in his baseball career when she was the single parent during the season. The struggles he had being away from his growing family. The thrill of starting the athletic department at John Brown University after he left the major leagues. The conflict between travelling to autograph appearances, which is getting harder and harder for him, and the warmth of the fans who meet him. We hardly discussed his career at all.

The next day I went to the Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, Iowa, to the show. Wally and Lou Brock were the attractions. Curiously, both wore number 20 with the Cardinals, and wore it with distinction.

I had never been to a collectors show before, so this was an eye-opening experience for me. Fans from around the world send memorabilia to be signed, and they have very specific things they want the signers to say, what pen to write it with and what color ink to use. Wally and Lou started at 9:30 and signed at least one hundred items each, ranging from old issues of Sports Illustrated to bats and balls. Then they went upstairs to meet the fans and sign more.

For the better part of three hours people waited patiently for signatures. Some wanted pictures. One of Wally’s players from John Brown came to see his old coach. Little kids looked in awe at these legends of the game and so did their dad’s.

I watched from the side as Wally and Lou patiently met each fan, shook hands, posed for pictures, answered questions and enjoyed the time in the spotlight again. While this was fun for me, it was work for them, although they were clearly having a good time.

As the last of the fans came through Wally still had that twinkle in his eye, and you could tell he was enjoying the moment, but the session ended and he returned to being Wallace Moon, husband, father, grandfather, teacher and perhaps the best moniker, role model. While he’s famous for “Moon shots” as a baseball player, his greatest contributions are the example of a life being lived with quiet dignity and dedication to the family he loves. I was privileged to have seen a glimpse of it.

Wootten works as a financial planner for Well Fargo Advisers in Des Moines, Iowa. A life-long sports fan, Wootten is married with two children: a son in his senior year at TCU, and a daughter who is an apprentice dancer with the Minnesota Ballet.