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Originally published March 1, 2013 at 8:51 PM | Page modified March 1, 2013 at 10:59 PM

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Ford 'Moon' Mullen, ex-major-leaguer and member of 'Tall Firs' Oregon team, dies at 96

Ford "Moon" Mullen, the oldest living major-leaguer in Washington state and the last surviving member of the University of Oregon's legendary...

Times staff reporter

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What a fantastic life. I imagine it is a tale worth hearing in more detail. R.I.P. Moon MORE

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Ford "Moon" Mullen, the oldest living major-leaguer in Washington state and the last surviving member of the University of Oregon's legendary "Tall Firs" basketball team, died Thursday night in Stanwood at age 96.

Mullen's wife of 72 years, Jessie, said her husband had suffered a stroke two weeks ago and died "very peacefully." A week earlier, on Feb. 9, family and friends helped Mullen celebrate his 96th birthday.

"We had a wonderful life together," Jessie Mullen said. "No regrets whatsoever. He was a great guy, very humble."

Mullen was born in Olympia, grew up on the resort his family operated on Pattison Lake in Lacey, and met Jessie in the stands at an Olympia High School football game.

"I'm not sure what she saw in me, but I'm thankful," Mullen said during a 2011 interview with The Seattle Times.

Mullen attended the University of Oregon, where he was a 5-foot-8 backup guard on the Ducks team that beat Ohio State 46-33 in the first NCAA title game at Northwestern University in 1939.

"I was the shortest Tall Fir," Mullen joked in the Times interview.

But baseball was Mullen's sport, and he began a professional career in 1939 in the Detroit Tigers' organization with the Class D Alexandria (Louisiana) Aces. He was playing for the Seattle Rainiers in September of 1943 when he saw a headline in the newspaper: "Mullen sold to the Phillies."

With many major-leaguers off to serve in World War II, teams were scrambling for players. Mullen, a left-handed-hitting second baseman, played the 1944 season with the Phillies, hitting .267 in 118 games.

Mullen was drafted into the army after the 1944 season, serving at Fort Lewis, and never again returned to the major leagues. After retiring from baseball, he forged a second career teaching zoology and biology at Olympia High School for 27 years.

Mullen is survived by wife Jessie, children Ford Mullen Jr. of Camano Island; Judy Schneider of Seattle; and Janet Siemion of Bellingham; six grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, and two great-great grand children.

His wife said funeral arrangements are pending.

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