If you asked Jack B. Moore about baseball, he could recite a New York Yankees’ starting lineup from almost any year. When asked about social justice, he’d tell stories about his days as a civil rights activist. Ask colleagues what kind of man he was and you’ll hear: “What a renaissance man Jack Moore was.”
When Moore retired from USF last year, he left a 40-year mark at the institution. But last week, he left a lifetime of achievements that could “astound” anyone.
Wednesday evening, Moore died in New York after he slipped into a coma due to heart complications. He was 69.
In 1962, Moore came to USF, and from the outside he seemed like a simple literary scholar. But colleagues quickly realized he was more than that when he helped found USF’s American Studies department, became the director of the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and published articles on cultural icons.
“He was multi-dimensional and interested in so many things. He had a very rich career,” said Richard Dietrich, a professor in USF’s English department.
Thirty-five years ago, Dietrich met Moore and learned they shared interests besides academics.
“(We) would often go to the theater together. The last time I saw him was at a play, Artist Descending a Staircase,” Dietrich said.
Moore, who earned his doctorate in American literature from the University of North Carolina, served as the chairman of USF’s American Studies department for 14 years.
But besides literature, Dietrich said Moore was a man of baseball and social justice.
“He was a very bright guy on a lot of different subjects. He could astound you with his grasp of trivia,” Dietrich said. “He had a memory that went back decades. He could name a starting lineup of the Yankees from back in the ’50s.”
Moore, who grew up in Maplewood, N.J., became a civil rights activist during the Vietnam War. He taught overseas in Ghana, Sierra Leone and Europe. His publications include books on W.E.B. DuBois, Yankee Clipper Joe DiMaggio, the cultural history of skinheads and several fictional pieces.
“Jack had a life-long interest in social justice, and early on, he became a staunch proponent of civil rights,” said Phillip Sipiora, chairman of USF’s English department. “As an activist he would go on marches, but he also wrote about these issues. He analyzed scenes such as pro-baseball and wrote about dimensions of race relations.”
Sipiora described Moore as a warm-hearted person who took an interest in the lives of others.
“My son is a baseball player, and I don’t think I’ve met with Jack in the past couple of years without him asking how my son pitched in the game,” Sipiora said.
Sipiora’s son was playing in Cooperstown the same week Moore was in New York visiting his daughter. Sipiora said Moore asked him for a schedule of the games before he left.
“He was going to try to work this in with his schedule,” Sipiora said. “He would do this with everyone.”
But Wednesday, Moore slipped into a coma after suffering from a heart attack. He was hospitalized in New York after his brain was left without oxygen for about an hour. He died shortly after 10 p.m.
“He was truly a warm, interested individual in the lives of others,” Sipiora said.
Even as a Yankees fan, Sipiora said Moore respected Boston Red Sox’s fans. A rare occurrence, for it is one of baseball’s most heated rivalries.
“He respects excellence, whether it’s in baseball or literature,” Sipiora said.
But Sipiora, a White Sox fan, admitted their opinions on baseball would often conflict.
“He and I would constantly argue about the Yankees and White Sox,” Sipiora said. “But he and I would talk about sports, music, marriage, the 20th century novel. He truly was a renaissance person.”
Moore is survived by his wife Judy, his sons Sean, Brendan and Devin and daughters Tamsin and Deirdre Cipolla.
Sipiora said a memorial service will be held on campus sometime in mid-September.
A Jack B. Moore Memorial Scholarship has been created in lieu of flowers. Donations can be made by contacting the USF English department at 974-2421.