Monte Moore (left) called three straight World Series on NBC joining an institutional national sports voice, Curt Gowdy. Moore and Gowdy teamed for the three A’s series on NBC; in ’72 with Cincinnati, the Mets, in ’73 and the Dodgers in ’74. Both Curt and Monte (left) shared roots earlier through Oklahoma, after the War.
By pure happenstance, Gowdy, born in 1919, was calling the University of Oklahoma games on commercial radio when Moore, born in 1930, was on the student station at OU. Moore picked up tons from a giant in Gowdy.
Curt became more and more impressed with the command of Moore on-air and his presence behind the microphone. By the 1970s, “Oakland won three straight Series.” Moore said proudly.
Recently, I spoke with Monte, still very much with it. “Yes,” he said, “Members of the 70s championship years reminisced happily at an event earlier this year. Think of all those guys,” Moore said refreshingly, referencing HOFers, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson and Rollie Fingers. Not long after the get-together, Vida Blue passed at 73.
Think of the names whom Monte covered on radio and TV; San Bando, Gene Tenace, Bert Campaneris, Ken Holtzman and Catfish Hunter.
Under Finley though, there was broadcast chaos. Moore was assigned partners like Bob Elson, Harry Caray, and Al Helfer, all three HOFers. Monte broke in Jon Miller in Oakland in 1974. It wasn’t a great launch. Miller was fired after one season by Finley for no specific reason. Miller eventually became exceptional with Boston, Baltimore, Texas, San Francisco and ESPN’s Sunday Night Football.
Moore initiated a fast moving career through college football and basketball in Oklahoma and Kansas and was then smoothly hired into the pros. He was appointed by owner Charlie Finley to call the Kansas City A’s in 1962. A number of times, he would be fired by the mercurial boss for ridiculous reasons and rehired the next day.
Finley was pumped going into Bat Day in Kansas City so he ordered Moore to show colorful bats on TV. But Moore was cautious. So he told young fans on TV to be careful holding a bat. When I spoke with Monte early this summer, he told me that Finley laced into him, “For five straight minutes, he just wouldn’t let go.” Finley was so angry that he slammed his hand against the table and broke it. Monte added, “When reporters asked about it, he blamed his hand-fracture on his announcer, Moore!” Now, more than a half century later, he can chuckle about it.
Finley demanded that his voices throw their entire hearts into whatever he was peddling, the nutty promotions and yes even the owner’s crazy mule, for which Finley was known nationally. These wild ways made the A’s known nationally. It wasn’t until Oakland in the late 1960s were competitive. Monte celebrated his 93d birthday on July 26th.
Fighting off challenges in Oakland
The 19th century philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche said “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” Moore suffered through an emotional rollercoaster working for Finley. Once he settled in Oakland, Monte was saddled at different points with unusual characters, a showy Red Rush who bounced around and an unpredictable veteran Harry Caray, Al Helfer and Bob Elson.
In Oakland, three were let go by Finley, Elson, Helfer and Rush. Caray was attracted by the White Sox and split Finley and the A’s. You can say that Harry’s best years were in St. Louis and Chicago where he voiced both the Sox and later the Cubs. Elson and Rush were known for betting on virtually anything in the Oakland booth, based on numbers from the tracks that were titillating.
But it was in 1970, his one unsettling season. Finley demoted Moore from his lead role, giving it to Harry. It still pains Moore today.
“It was my worst year in broadcasting,” his voice lowering sadly, remembering that season some 53 years ago. Caray had been fired in St. Louis after getting into the crosshair of the Busch family. Meanwhile, Finley hoped that the colorful and bubbly Harry would galvanize the Bay Area where the A’s hoped to steal some of the Giants thunder. With Caray on the broadcast throne, Moore was unhappily relegated to the number two broadcaster. (Caray and Chicagoan Hillary Clinton)
Moore decided to nip the Caray command in the bud. “I told him, I’m not your caddie.” So was the start of one ugly season, Moore and Caray. Moore said that the local station, KNBR, chimed in too. Apparently, Harry gave free plugs to the bars and restaurants he frequented in the Bay Area and that it compromised the station’s advertising sales efforts.
After one long year was over, Finley said, “Caray was done. The crap he pulled in St. Louis, didn’t go over in Oakland.” So Caray left and took his repertoire to Chicago, first with the White Sox and then with the Cubs. In Chicago, of course, we knew that Caray grew into a legendary status. You couldn’t miss him on local billboards for Anheuser Busch.
After leaving the A’s, Moore did play-by-play for the second team of NBC’s Game of the Week and later worked with Wes Parker on a USA Network package of national baseball.
Still in fine fettle overall, Moore still talks glowingly of Gowdy and Tony Kubek. He worked with both on network television.
At the party, the celebrating group of A’s stars shared mutual stories, reminiscing and chuckling. But what changed the mood at the festive occasion was the talk of the potential loss of the A’s from Oakland and a move to Las Vegas after at least 55 years.