Former Fuego manager was a feisty, old-school baseball nut

·5 min read

Dec. 30—"We wouldn't be the Pecos League without Bill Moore." Andrew Dunn, Pecos League president

It took just one face-to-face meeting for Andrew Dunn to see what so many baseball fans came to fall in love with over the years.

When his vision for founding an independent baseball league was coming together a decade ago in Las Cruces, eventual league President Dunn was pulled aside by Bill Moore to discuss logistics and what role Moore might play in the league once it came together.

"Bill was looking to become a team owner, but I knew right away that this was a guy who had to be part of what we were building," Dunn said. "When I think about it now, we wouldn't be the Pecos League without Bill Moore."

Moore was hired as the manager of the Santa Fe Fuego in the team's inaugural season in 2012 and finished his career as the winningest skipper in league history with 274 victories with five teams over eight seasons.

He died last week at age 76 following what Dunn described as a "heart issue."

He is survived by his wife and adult daughter. The family was living in Mesa, Ariz., at the time of his death but had discussed the possibility of moving to Austin, Texas, in the summer to manage the Austin Weirdos, a Pecos League expansion club.

A Navy veteran who spoke his mind and never backed down from confrontation, he immediately became the face of the Fuego during the team's first season. He showed his fiery side one night at Fort Marcy Ballpark when he was ejected from a game, found a bucket of baseballs in the dugout and dumped the contents on home plate.

He later explained that he wasn't actually that upset; all he wanted was for the fans to get their money's worth and for the players to know he was willing to hit the showers early to know he had their backs.

Then there was the bench-clearing incident against archrival Trinidad when he said the first thought in his mind was to grab the metal office chair he usually sat on and throw it at the Triggers' manager. He never did, joking the following day that he wasn't sure he could lift it over his head.

"He had moments when he was grumpy but at the end of the day it was always about the guys, always about the fans and always about baseball," said Fuego general manager Yvonne Encinias.

Moore's relationship with Encinias dates to the earliest days of the Fuego. Her son was plucked from a local tryout and was part of the team's initial roster, giving her a chance to serve as the team mom. She grew into the role of GM, learning the ropes of independent ball alongside Moore.

The first four seasons of Fuego baseball were essentially the golden age of the Pecos League. Santa Fe was the marquee club in what was then a New Mexico-based league as the Fuego drew the largest crowds and sold the most merchandise.

It peaked in 2014 when Moore skippered the team to the league championship behind fan-favorite players like Chevas Numata and league MVP Erik Kozel. He had the Fuego in line for another playoff run the following season but resigned just days before the end of the regular season when he had a dispute with several players on the team.

It led to a meandering path of stops for Moore in the ensuing years. He managed Garden City, Kan., the following year but never adjusted to the team's brutal travel demands in a league where carpooling between series is the norm.

He took over Bakersfield, Calif., in 2017, leading the Train Robbers to the playoffs.

"He had a great thing in Bakersfield because they had a perfect field setup and the people there just loved him," Dunn said. "After Santa Fe, he always seemed to be looking for something like it."

Dunn said Moore was talked into taking over the Tucson Saguaros in 2018, a move that seemed to make sense because of its proximity to his home in nearby Mesa. That, too, didn't work since Moore had a number of issues on and off the field defending his players. He got the team to the playoffs, but lost in the second round to Bakersfield.

His final year in the league was in 2019 with expansion club Wasco, Calif. He had plans to come back in 2020 with the team in Martinez, Calif., but the pandemic wiped out the season before it ever began.

Dunn said Moore had asked for the job in Austin and was fully committed to moving to Texas to give it a shot, but the two had a conversation Dec. 22 in which Moore told Dunn he "didn't have much time left" and wanted one last favor from the league president.

"He told me he wanted that picture we took of the Fuego after they won the championship," Dunn said. "I'll always remember that call because it's the last time I ever heard Bill's voice. It reminds me of all the times we talked like that first time, what, 10 years ago in Las Cruces. In a lot of ways Bill helped build this league and now he's gone."

Of all the things Moore did in baseball, one of the greatest was coming to the realization that there's a vast difference between coaching and managing. At the professional level, players usually don't have the ability to make dramatic leaps.

Knowing that allowed him to craft a roster that fit his mold of tough, outspoken and old-school types.

"He learned you can't improve guys at this level, so the best thing you can do for them and the team is send them home if they're not competing at the level you want," Dunn said. "He was an old-school guy, for sure. He probably made some people mad, but when you think about it, he was so good for Santa Fe. He got those guys involved, and he gave the people something to feel good about. I say this a lot, but if we had more guys like Bill Moore, we'd be an even better league."