Thursday, March 29, 2012

Otto "Moonie" Miller died tragically 50 years ago today

Otto “Moonie” Miller, catcher

1924 Indianapolis Indians

b. June 1, 1889 @ Minden, Nebraska
d. March 29, 1962 @ Brooklyn, New York

Lowell Otto “Moonie” Miller waited until he was 35 years old before joining the ranks of the American Association as a member of the Indianapolis Indians, but it wasn’t because he wasn’t busy.

Miller began his pro career in 1908 at the age of 19, and after a disappointing year in 1909 with Duluth of the Minnesota-Wisconsin League (D), he could easily have hung up his cleats and gone back to Nebraska. Instead, he was drafted by the Brooklyn Superbas of the National League on Sept. 1 of 1909. He must have taken the bid to play in the majors very seriously, because he won an assignment to play for Brooklyn in 1910. For 13 seasons without fail, “Moonie” donned the tools of ignorance for Brooklyn, who became the Dodgers in 1911 (then the Superbas again in 1913, then the Robins from 1914-22) for his entire career with the exception of three games he played at first base. He left on a good note in 1922 at the age of 33, hitting .261 in 59 games.

After one year with the Atlanta Crackers (A), he joined Indianapolis (AA) in 1924 at the age of 35, appearing in 43 games, playing catcher in 19 of them, and batting .267 under Donie Bush (see blog entry for March 28). The Indians fell short of the flag by a mere three games.

Miller had big shoes to fill as the back-up backstop for the Tribe in 1924. Ernie Krueger, their regular man behind the plate, batted .339 that year to lead the club, which must be some sort of record for American Association catchers. It was Miller’s final season in pro ball.

Today we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Otto “Moonie” Miller’s departure from this life. He left in the most ignominious of manners. According to Baseball Necrology, Miller died “when he plunged from an office on the fourth floor of a building where he had undergone eye surgery two days earlier.” Whether it was an accident or a suicide is something of a question, but it was certainly a strange and tragic twist in the life of a career ball player.

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