Moore remains a mystery, his life and death cloaked from our view. Even the dedicated sleuths of the Society for American Baseball Research have been unable to locate him.
When I first read the Baseball Encyclopedia many years back I was amazed to discover a rookie who batted .336 in his first season. And that was it! It was not until I started doing research that I began to get a better view of the player.
In 1883 Henry Moore played for the Reading Actives in the Interstate Association. In 25 games he batted a respectable .283. The next season he was one of several players from that team signed by Michael Scanlon to play for the Washington Union Club. The intention was to play Moore at shortstop in tandem with the ever reliable Tom Evers at second base.
By 26 April the experiment with Moore at shortstop is over. “He will play left field. Moore it was felt had had neither the range nor the ability to play shortstop, he will be more at home in left field. In his place Washington signs James Lehan to play shortstop. Lehan is a 28 year old rookie.”
In May Moore and several other players get intoxicated while playing in Altoona, then a Union Association franchise. It is the first public indication of Moore’s fondness for the bottle. The team’s manager did not usually travel with the team and discipline problems are endemic on the 1884 Union and 1885 Eastern League nines.
17 July, Moore has become a very good hitter; his ability to hit for extra bases has earned him the title, “heavy hitter.” So good has he become that the following makes headlines. “Baseball circles are agitated by a rumor that Henry Moore of the nationals would jump to the Washington Association Club. But his emphatic denial that he had either received an offer in behalf of the Washington’s or had any thought of deserting the nationals settles that.”
9 August, Moore, the left fielder of the Nationals, is black-listed by the management Saturday night (9th) for drunkenness. His batting and fielding will be greatly missed, but no club can afford to keep a player who is liable to give away a game at any time from lack of condition. Moore was given repeated warnings and given every chance to “bruce up” before the final step was resorted to. John Deasley, who has been drinking for some time past, was released.”
Despite his numbers in left field, Moore the press has numerous references to good plays. I suspect that his fondness for a drink is the primary cause for his lower than average fielding.
Within days it is announced that Henry Moore has been given another chance, and is playing good ball. He was blacklisted, but the official notice was not sent in to the secretary of the Union Association, and is still withheld, so that Moore is playing in a state of suspension as it were. But it will not be hard for Moore to make himself solid again with the management if he tries.
Washington despite some initial troubles finishes well and has hopes for 1885. But the Union Association collapses and the team effectively shifts to the Eastern league.
In the spring of 1885, there is news about Moore. “Henry Moore is in town and looking for employment with the team and may be given a place on it. This is somewhat of a surprise since he was not expected to play on the team but a .336 hitter is hard to find.
Mark “Wud” Wood of the Sporting Life writes, “Henry Moore has been given another chance to redeem himself, and should he be governed by the past, he will be signed. He is a good player, but he has his faults.
The press has this to say about Mr. Moore during a spring exhibition match, “The applause that Moore got on the 9th when he made two brilliant plays shows conclusively that this man has the sympathies of the people with him. There is no better player in the county, but he must take care of himself, leave off the crowd he goes with, and mingle more with the players of the team, if he desires to keep on the club throughout the season. He is one of those good-natured players who is easily tempted to drink and go off, but if he sticks by Charlie Geggus, Bill White and the rest of the team they will keep him straight.”
30 May, Henry Moore is batting .197, surprisingly worst on the club.
22 June, Henry Moore has been fined $50 and suspended for allowing his old enemy to get the best of him.
24 June, Henry Moore has been released from the Nationals. His batting this year has not been up to the mark, but his fielding had been good, and he will probably have no great trouble in securing an engagement elsewhere. Moore had raised his average to .213
The press reports the following, “Several days’ later acting upon strong evidence Manager Michael Scanlon last week granted Moore, his release unreservedly. This step was taken, says Manager Scanlon, in order to protect the discipline of the team, as he himself heard Charlie Geggus disputing with Moore because he did not properly support him while in the box, also that he was drinking. The friends of Moore deny the charge, and say that for the entire year he has abstained from strong drink and as a proof to his excellent record in left-field. A statement was signed by members of the Richmond Club and several of the National players to this effect.”
Later another report, “It is reported that Henry Moore was not released by the Nationals because of drinking, he has abstained all season. The reason was to insure harmony on the team.” At this point, without new information it would be difficult to go into the issue of whether or not Moore was drinking heavily during the 1885 season. The fact that he was not initially expected to play for Washington speaks for itself. His tendency to distance himself from his teammates and difficulties with them would have put a strain on a team that many expected to perform well but was sluggish out of the gate forcing Scanlon to remake it during the season. It is a familiar tale in baseball that when the talents of a gifted but troubled star fade so too does the demand for him. So it seems was the case for Moore.
After being released, Henry Moore will play 35 games with the Norfolk Club in the Eastern League and bat .302. In 1886 he will play for Atlanta in the Southern Association batting .295 in 44 games. He then disappears in to the mists.
What Moore could have accomplished remains open to debate. He certainly had the talent to play at the major league level and do well. But his problems were too much for Washington to contend with.