SCORECARD: THE MOORE TRAGEDY, July Ed., Sports Illustrated, 31 Jul 1989, pp. 7.
Loren Coleman, a researcher at the Human Services Development Institute at the University of Southern Maine and the author of Suicide Clusters, a 1987 book that examines suicide patterns, is finishing up a study of suicide among major league baseball players. He found that 77 big leaguers had taken their lives -- most of them after leaving the game -- and concluded that baseball needs a counseling program to help players adjust to retirement. In a letter last October to then commissioner Peter Ueberroth and team owners, Coleman warned that another baseball suicide was statistically likely in 1989 or 1990.
Sadly, Coleman's prediction came true last week. On July 19, at his home in Anaheim, Calif., former All-Star relief pitcher Donnie Moore drew a gun, shot and critically wounded his wife, Tonya, with whom police say he had been arguing, and then shot and killed himself. Moore, 35, had been released on June 12 by the Kansas City Royals' minor league affiliate in Omaha.
Friends say that Moore was haunted by memories of the two-strike, two-out, ninth-inning home run he gave up to Dave Henderson of the Boston Red Sox while pitching for the Angels in Game 5 of the 1986 American League Championship Series. If Moore had retired Henderson, California would have won the series four games to one. Instead, Boston won Game 5 in extra innings and then triumphed in Games 6 and 7 to advance to the World Series against the Mets.
Coleman's findings show Moore's death to be, at least on the surface, a textbook case of baseball suicide. Coleman found that about half the players who took their lives used guns to kill themselves, and 45% were -- like Moore -- righthanded pitchers. (Curiously, none of the suicide victims was a lefthanded pitcher.) More than half the victims committed suicide between their late 20's and late 40's, and 15% did so within two years after their major league careers had ended. Moore's final big league season was 1988.
Says Coleman of the pattern he found in baseball suicides, ''They get to the big leagues, something happens -- an injury or a bad season -- their career ends, and they have no safety net, no way of coping.''
Copyright 1989 Time Inc.
EDITED BY CRAIG NEFF,