|Born: May 14, 1899|
|Died: July 21, 1976 77) (aged|
|April 16, 1924, for the New York Yankees|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 29, 1935, for the New York Yankees|
|Runs batted in||633|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the National|
|Election Method||Veterans Committee|
Earle Bryan Combs (May 14, 1899 – July 21, 1976) was an American professional baseball player who played his entire career for the New York Yankees (1924–1935). Combs batted leadoff and played center field on the Yankees' fabled 1927 team (often referred to as Murderers' Row). He is one of six players on that team who have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame; the other five are Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, Tony Lazzeri, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.
Combs led the league in triples three times and was among the top ten in the category in several other seasons. He suffered a fractured skull and other injuries from a crash into an outfield wall in 1934, then retired after another injury the next season. Nicknamed "the Kentucky Colonel", Combs was known as a gentleman on and off the field. He remained in baseball as a coach for many years after his retirement as a player.
Combs was born in Pebworth, Owsley County, Kentucky. As a child, he played baseball games with tree limbs as bats and with baseballs made out of string and the material of old shoes.
Combs left Pebworth in 1917 to enter Eastern Kentucky State Normal School in Richmond. In those early days, Eastern prepared its students to become teachers. On completion of a two-year program, graduates were often employed in rural one-room schools. They were often responsible for forty or more students, ranging in age from six to teen-age in grades one through eight, so the work required much management skill.
In his first year at Eastern, Combs put on a stellar performance in a faculty-student baseball game and was encouraged to join the school team by Dr. Charles Keith (Dean of Men and baseball coach).He hit .591 at Eastern during his last season. After graduating from Eastern, Combs went back to his native Owsley County and taught in one-room schoolhouses in both Ida May and Levi.
Combs continued to play baseball in his spare time. He played for High Splint (Harlan County coal company team) in the Pine Mountain League (summer of 1921) and hit .444. He also played semi-pro baseball for the Lexington Reos of the Bluegrass League. It was in Lexington (in 1922) that Combs drew the attention of the Louisville Colonels of the American Association. After scouting him, Louisville offered him a contract which provided a salary that exceeded the $37 per month ($565 today) he made as a teacher in Owsley County.
His Louisville debut was unsettling; he committed several outfield errors. The last one gave the opposition the two runs they needed to win the game. Distraught afterward, Combs said, "As I went after the dropped ball I was tempted to keep right on going, climb the fence and not stop running until I got to Pebworth." He had married Ruth McCollum, his high school sweetheart, the year before and was concerned about his future.
Joe McCarthy, the manager of the Colonels and later his manager with the Yankees, knew what Combs could do and told him, "Look, if I didn't think you belonged in center field on this club I wouldn't put you there, and I'm going to keep you there." Combs soon found his stride,hitting .344 in 1922 and .380 in 1923 for the Colonels and also earning a reputation for speedy ball-hawking in the outfield and reckless base- stealing on offense.
In 1924, the New York Yankees won a spirited bidding war and bought Combs' contract for $50,000 ($745,922 in current dollar terms). This was a rather large sum at that time, but it bore fruit for the Yankees as Combs proved an immediate success in New York. In his rookie season (summer of 1924), Combs played center field and hit .400 before breaking an ankle sliding into home plate at Cleveland's League Park on June 15. Except for one pinch-hitting appearance, he saw no more action that rookie season.
The following year, manager Miller Huggins made Combs the Yankees' leadoff hitter. He held this position for the remaining eleven years of his playing career. He hit .342 and scored 117 runs in 1925. In his best year (1927), he hit .356 with 231 hits, 131 runs scored, 36 doubles and a league-leading 23 triples. He led the league in triples again the next year, batting .310 and finishing sixth in Most Valuable Player voting. He hit .345 in 1929, then .344 in 1930, again leading the league in triples.
Combs suffered a serious accident in July 1934. On a 100+-degree day at St. Louis' Sportsman's Park, he crashed into the outfield wall going for a fly ball, sustaining a fractured skull, a broken shoulder and a damaged knee. He was reportedly near death for several days, and was hospitalized for more than two months. The next season, he attempted a comeback but suffered another serious injury. That injury, coupled with the knowledge that the Yankees were set to bring up a rookie center fielder named Joe DiMaggio the next season, led to Combs' decision to retire at the age of 36.
For his career Combs hit .325, had an on-base average of .397 and averaged nearly 200 hits, 75 walks and only 31 strikeouts a season. He was a part of three World Series championships (in 1927, 1928 and 1932). He also set the Yankees' team record for most triples in a season (23 in 1927). He hit no lower than .282 in any of his eleven seasons, and scored no fewer than 113 runs from 1925 through 1933. In four World Series, Combs hit .350 with a .443 on-base average. He averaged 17 triples a season, and had a lifetime fielding percentage seven points better than the league average.
Miller Huggins once said, "If you had nine Combs' on your ball club, you could go to bed every night and sleep like a baby". Joe McCarthy (another longtime Yankee manager) said, "They wouldn't pay baseball managers much of a salary if they all presented as few problems as did Earle Combs." Said Babe Ruth: "Combs was more than a good ballplayer; he was always a first-class gentleman."American sportswriter and baseball historian Fred Lieb wrote of Combs, "If a vote were taken of the sportswriters as to who their favorite ballplayer on the Yankees would be, Combs would have been their choice."
After his retirement as a player, he remained in the game as a coach for almost two decades. He was offered a coaching job with the Yankees in 1936, and started his new position by instructing his replacement (DiMaggio) on the nuances of Yankee Stadium's outfield. He coached for the Yankees through 1944, for the St. Louis Browns in 1947 and for the Boston Red Sox (1948–1952). When he announced his retirement from the Boston coaching staff in March 1953, he said that he was going to spend more time with family and his Kentucky farm.He returned to coaching for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1954.
After retiring from baseball in 1954, Combs returned to his 400-acre farm in Madison County. He served as the Kentucky state banking commissioner during Governor (and former Baseball Commissioner) A. B. 'Happy' Chandler's second administration (1955–1959), and on Eastern's Board of Regents from 1959 to 1975. In November 1962, he laid the foundation stone for Earle B. Combs Hall, a dormitory at Eastern. In June 1970, the Little League field at Irvine-McDowell Park in Richmond was named in his honor. In 2006, he was inducted as a charter member of Eastern's Athletics Hall of Fame, and the university provides an athletic scholarship in his honor each year.
Combs was selected for induction into the Hall of Fame in 1970 by the Veterans Committee. When he learned of the honor, he said "I thought the Hall of Fame was for superstars, not just average players like me."Sabermetrician Bill James has listed Combs as one of ten examples of Hall of Fame inductees who do not deserve the honor.
Combs and his wife Ruth (1901–1989) had three sons, Earle Jr, Charles and Donald. After a long illness, he died on July 21, 1976 (age 77) in Richmond, Kentucky. He is interred in the Richmond Cemetery.
In the postseason, in 4 World Series covering 16 games (1926, '27, '28 and '32), Combs batted .350 (21-for-60) with 17 runs, 3 doubles, 1 home run, 9 RBI and 10 base on balls.
James Emory Foxx, nicknamed "Double X" and "The Beast", was an American professional baseball first baseman who played 20 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, and Philadelphia Phillies. His most productive years were with the Philadelphia Athletics and the Boston Red Sox, where he hit 30 or more home runs in 12 consecutive seasons and drove in more than 100 runs in 13 consecutive years.
George Kenneth Griffey Sr. is an American former professional baseball outfielder who played in Major League Baseball for the Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, and Seattle Mariners from 1973 through 1991. Griffey was a member of the famed Big Red Machine, and a three-time All-Star. He is the father of Hall of Fame outfielder Ken Griffey Jr.
Samuel Earl Crawford, nicknamed "Wahoo Sam", was an American outfielder in Major League Baseball (MLB).
Murderers' Row were the baseball teams of the New York Yankees in the late 1920s, widely considered some of the best teams in history. The nickname is in particular describing the first six hitters in the 1927 team lineup: Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, and Tony Lazzeri.
Aloysius Harry Simmons, born Alois Szymanski, was an American professional baseball player. Nicknamed "Bucketfoot Al", he played for two decades in Major League Baseball (MLB) as an outfielder and had his best years with Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics during the late 1920s and early 1930s, winning two World Series with Philadelphia. Simmons also played for the Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Washington Senators, Boston Braves, Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox. After his playing career ended, Simmons served as a coach for the Athletics and Cleveland Indians. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1953.
John Robert Mize, nicknamed Big Jawn and The Big Cat, was an American professional baseball player, coach and scout. He played as a first baseman in Major League Baseball (MLB) for 15 seasons between 1936 and 1953, losing three seasons to military service during World War II. Mize was a ten-time All-Star who played for the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants, and the New York Yankees. During his tenure with the Yankees, the team won five consecutive World Series.
In the 1927 World Series, the New York Yankees swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in four games. This was the first sweep of a National League team by an American League team.
Stephen Bradley Wilkerson is an American former professional baseball outfielder and first baseman in Major League Baseball for eight seasons. Wilkerson played college baseball for the University of Florida, and was selected by the Montreal Expos in the first round of the 1998 Major League Baseball Draft. During his Major League career, he played for the Expos, Washington Nationals, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, and Toronto Blue Jays.
Robert William Meusel was an American baseball left and right fielder who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for eleven seasons from 1920 through 1930, all but the last for the New York Yankees. He was best known as a member of the Yankees' championship teams of the 1920s, nicknamed the "Murderers' Row", during which time the team won its first six American League (AL) pennants and first three World Series titles.
Eugene Richard Woodling was an American professional baseball player, coach and scout. He played in Major League Baseball as an outfielder between 1943 and 1962, most notably as a member of the New York Yankees dynasty that won five consecutive World Series championships between 1949 to 1953.
Charles Ernest Keller was an American professional baseball player. He played as a left fielder in Major League Baseball from 1939 through 1952 for the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers (1950–51). A native of Middletown, Maryland, he batted left-handed and threw right-handed. His ability to hit massive fly balls and home runs earned him the nickname "King Kong".
Lynford Horbart Lary, nicknamed "Broadway", was an American professional baseball shortstop. He played twelve seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Washington Senators, St. Louis Browns, Cleveland Indians, Brooklyn Dodgers, and St. Louis Cardinals.
Robert Hayes "Bobby" Veach was an American baseball player from 1910 to 1930 including 14 seasons in the major leagues. He was the starting left fielder for the Detroit Tigers from 1912 to 1923 and also played for the Boston Red Sox (1924–1925), New York Yankees (1925) and Washington Senators (1925).
George Alexander Selkirk was a Canadian outfielder and front office executive in Major League Baseball. In 1935, Selkirk succeeded Babe Ruth as the right fielder of the New York Yankees—and also inherited Ruth's fabled No. 3 uniform.
Benjamin Edwin Paschal was an American baseball outfielder who played eight seasons in Major League Baseball from 1915 to 1929, mostly for the New York Yankees. After two "cup of coffee" stints with the Cleveland Indians in 1915 and the Boston Red Sox in 1920, Paschal spent most of his career as the fourth outfielder and right-handed pinch hitter of the Yankees' Murderers' Row championship teams of the late 1920s. Paschal is best known for hitting .360 in the 1925 season while standing in for Babe Ruth, who missed the first 40 games with a stomach ailment.
Harry Francis Rice, was an outfielder for the St. Louis Browns (1923–27), Detroit Tigers (1928–30), New York Yankees (1930), Washington Senators (1931) and Cincinnati Reds (1933).
The 1927 New York Yankees season was the 25th season of the New York Yankees of the American League. The team finished with a record of 110–44, winning their fifth pennant and finishing 19 games ahead of the Philadelphia Athletics and were tied for first or better for the whole season. New York was managed by Miller Huggins. The Yankees played at Yankee Stadium. In the World Series, they swept the Pittsburgh Pirates. This Yankees team was known for their feared lineup, which was nicknamed "Murderers' Row", and is widely considered to be the greatest baseball team in MLB history.
The 1932 New York Yankees season was the team's 30th season in New York, and its 32nd season overall. The team finished with a record of 107–47, winning their seventh pennant, finishing 13 games ahead of the Philadelphia Athletics. New York was managed by future Hall of Famer Joe McCarthy. A record nine future Hall of Famers played on the team.
Peter Thomas Ward is a retired Canadian-born professional baseball player who appeared in 973 games over nine seasons in Major League Baseball as a third baseman, outfielder and first baseman for the Baltimore Orioles (1962), Chicago White Sox (1963–1969) and New York Yankees (1970). Ward was the runner-up for the American League (AL) Rookie of the Year Award in 1963, but was named that season's AL Rookie of the Year by The Sporting News. He finished in the Top 10 in the AL's Most Valuable Player poll in both 1963 (ninth) and 1964 (sixth).
Cedric Montgomery Durst was an outfielder in Major League Baseball who played between 1922 and 1930 for the St. Louis Browns, New York Yankees (1927–30) and Boston Red Sox (1930). Listed at 5' 11", 160 lb., Durst batted and threw left-handed. He was born in Austin, Texas.
| Boston Red Sox first-base coach |