David White: Moore's past makes for great fun in present

Special to The BeeMay 3, 2014 

Monte Moore, wearing his black Oakland A's polo and matching World Series ring, walks into the family room with the 1960s-style wall panels, '70s-style photo frames and '80s-style VCR and masters the art of time travel.

"Want to look at these pictures?" Moore asks, hoping the answer is yes because the greatest storyteller around is dying to tell his stories.

"That there is President Nixon when they invited us to the White House, and the year, I believe was ..." 2014. Because, when Moore tells a story, he always sounds like it's happening right here and now.

That brings us back to that time travel thought: Moore never takes his guest back in time. Rather, he makes times leap forward to him, born again in his central Porterville home in all its Technicolor glory.

"Now this here guy in that picture is Harry Caray, I worked a season with him in ..."

Moore keeps talking at a steady yet excitable pace, as if it's the bottom of the third inning, with runners on the corner and Sal Bando is thinking speedball on a 2-0 count. Moore's thinned gray hair seems to turn dark again, his belly sucks in tight enough to button his just-awful checkered sportscoats.

He isn't an 84-year-old telling stories to himself. He's that baby-cheeked Oklahoman getting offered a radio job by Charlie Finley in a Kansas City elevator, all over again.

"Now this here is Wilt Chamberlain," the former Kansas basketball announcer says. "It looks like he's really stretching to slam dunk there, but he didn't have to."

Every black-and-white photo -- and they are everywhere in the family room, and the office, and the free spaces in between -- is a memory come to life. Joe DiMaggio with an aw-shucks in his grin. Vida Blue with his menace on the mound. Casey Stengel with all that wrinkled grumpy on his face.

"I spend a lot of time in this room," Moore says.

From his tired brown recliner, he watches converted DVDs of television games he called for the A's -- first in Kansas City in 1962, then in Oakland until he retired in 1980. Fans send him their videotapes of national games he called for NBC and USA Network, either because they want to thank him or they have no use for a VCR anymore.

It doesn't take but a minute when the video turns on, when it all comes back to Moore. He remembers the game, he remembers the time, he remembers the botched pickle someone got caught in that day. And, he remembers freezing to death in his parka that particular night at Candlestick Park.

"That there is the sportswriter Red Smith. He gave me that sand timer, you see, and told me every time I look down and see it's empty ..."

But time never runs out on Moore. He just retired from his third career -- public relations officer at Porterville College -- but he has too much to tell to stay quiet.

Later this month, he will be at the Oakland Coliseum to introduce the A's 1974 World Series champions. He did the same last year for the 1973 team's 40th anniversary. Every starter of that team was there. Every one of them gave him a hug and something signed to add to his collection.

"This here bat is Reggie Jackson's," Moore says, holding the sweet spot in the strike zone.

Moore swears the latest retirement is his last -- "in baseball, it's three strikes and you're out, so I'm out" -- but what else is he going to do?

He has so many more stories to tell, so many pictures to spring back to life. All he needs is someone to visit his family room, so they can listen to him.

Because, the worst sound that could ever be made in this history-kissed room is the sound of nothing. That would be enough to force a man out of his third retirement.

"See all these scrapbooks?" he asks. "No one really has any time to look through them but me ...

"There are just so many stories in here."

The columnist can be reached at bydw@sbcglobal.net or @bydavidwhite on Twitter.

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