James 'Red' Moore still living the dream
While Albert Pujols is locked up in his mansion crying broke and waiting for a fair contract of $250 million or more, Negro Leagues baseball legend James "Red" Moore remembers playing for $500 a month.
"My salary is his eating money," Moore, pictured above second from left, said recently from his home in Scotts Crossing in Northwest Atlanta. "I guess I was born a little too early to make that kind of money."
Moore, 94, played seven years in the Negro Leagues for the Atlanta Black Crackers, Baltimore Elite Giants and the Newark Eagles before his baseball career was cut short because of military service. In his prime, Moore was one of the league's leading first basemen and entertained crowds before games by throwing the ball behind his back and between his legs. He was a three-time All-Star and played on three Second Half Championship teams. Moore got his nickname "Red" for his extremely fair skin and the color he would turn after a couple of innings on the field.
Moore was a lefty when left-handed gloves were not a priority in the Negro Leagues. He loves telling the story of how he would take a right-handed glove, turn it inside out and create a pocket to go to work on first base. Improvisation was nothing new to Moore, who grew up in Georgia practicing his batting skills with a stick, tennis balls and rags fashioned into a ball.
Major League Baseball and local Atlanta teams are doing their best to honor his legacy while Moore is still around to enjoy it. In a historic Negro Leagues draft held by the MLB in 2008, the Atlanta Braves drafted him.
"I enjoyed that, guess it's better late than never," Moore said.
He gets to Turner Field often to watch his favorite player, Jason Heyward, knock balls out the park. Recently, the Atlanta Hawks celebrated Black History Month by honoring him for his civic contributions.
Moore's friend and volunteer publicist Greg White makes sure Moore is recognized whenever possible. White even created a website , rare for living Negro Leagues players, where the youth can learn about Moore and organizations can contact him for appearances.
"People read about a lot of folks after they're dead," Moore said. "Greg kept my name alive and let people know I'm still around."
Moore had to end his baseball career to serve his country and now he spends his days in a quiet two-story home on a tree-lined block with his wife, Mary. He is kept busy with a plethora of grandchildren who stop by for home-cooked meals. He and Mary also keep the spark in their relationship and venture into town for a weekly dinner date.
Memories of his days on the field are a little fuzzy for Moore. However, he can take a trip down memory lane any time with the hundreds of Negro Leagues artifacts, fan-painted portraits, articles and awards of him that fill his home. His wife makes sure to preserve anything about the Negro Leagues or with Moore's name on it.
"It makes me feel real big to be honored," said Moore. "People can see history and not just read about it. That makes me feel real big."