One of the great characters in minor-league baseball is no longer with us, as John Henry Moss passed away yesterday after suffering a stroke.
John Henry Moss, the founder and leader of the South Atlantic (Sally) League until 2007, died yesterday morning at the Kings Mountain Hospital in his home town of Kings Mountain, N.C., where he had been hospitalized after suffering a stroke on June 7th. He was 90 years old.
"The South Atlantic League is deeply saddened to report the passing of John Henry Moss,” said current SAL president Eric Krupa. “I do not think there is another league that owes as much to one person as the South Atlantic League owes to John Henry Moss.
"John helped create the league and guided its growth for 50 years. The solid, well-run league that I took over in 2008 was the direct result of John’s lifetime commitment and hard work. He will be sorely missed throughout the league and all of baseball."
Spending time with Moss was one of the high points of any baseball meeting or ballpark where he was present. He was quick with a story, usually delivered with a twinkle in his eye and a well-honed sense of timing. To say baseball changed during his 70+ years in the game is an understatement.
John Henry Moss was born in Kings Mountain, North Carolina on November 10, 1918. He played minor league baseball in 1940, then joined the army and served as a bodyguard to Gen. Ira T. Wyche during World War II. Upon returning to Kings Mountain in 1947, he established the Western Carolina League, a semi-pro baseball league in small towns in western North and South Carolina. The league was approved for membership in the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (NAPBL) in October 1947.
Between 1950 and 1958, John moved north and worked as a general manager for minor league teams in the Detroit Tigers’ system. John returned to Kings Mountain in 1959 and was recruited to re-organize the Western Carolinas League, which was approved for membership in the NAPBL on June 29, 1959. The Western Carolinas League assumed the name of the retired South Atlantic League in 1980.
Under John’s leadership, the South Atlantic League grew to 16 clubs in 8 states. John helped bring professional baseball to 43 different cities (represented by 114 ownership groups) by stressing the importance of providing quality, wholesome, family-friendly entertainment at an affordable price. Assisting John throughout most of his career was his loving wife, Elaine Beilke Moss. Elaine served as Director of Administration and Finance for the Western Carolinas/South Atlantic League for 45 years, before passing away in 2004.
In addition to his league responsibilities, John also served as Mayor of Kings Mountain from 1965-1988, during which time he earned national recognition by securing more than $40 million in federal grants. Newsweek magazine called him the “Mayor with the Midas touch.” He received a slew of baseball awards over the years, including the first-ever lifetime achievement award from Ballpark Digest in 2007.
To honor John’s lifetime commitment and dedication of 50 years to the South Atlantic League, the South Atlantic League Board of Directors voted in 2007 to retire the jersey number 50 throughout the South Atlantic League.
A private gravesite ceremony will take place on Monday, July 6. A memorial service will follow at St. Matthews Lutheran Church in Kings Mountain. A viewing will be held on Sunday, July 5 from 6-8 p.m. at the Harris Funeral Home in Kings Mountain, N.C.
The family has requested that donations be made in lieu of flowers. Donations may be made to Gardner-Webb University (for the John Moss Baseball Stadium, P.O. Box 997, Boiling Springs, NC 28107 Phone: 704-692-4618) or to Hospice of Cleveland County (951 Wendover Heights Drive, Shelby, NC 28150 Phone: 704-487-4677).
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