Earle Bryan Combs
and Ruth McCollum

Earle Bryan Combs and Ruth McCollum

Earle Bryan Combs and Wife, Ruth McCollum
Earle Bryan Combs (The Kentucky Colonel) b 14 May 1899 Pebworth, Owsley Co KY d 21 Jul 1976; buried Richmond Cemetery, Richmond, KY; s/o James Jesse Combs and Nannie Brandenburg. Earle Bryan Combs m. 1922 to Ruth McCollum b 1901 d 13 Sept 1989. Earle Bryan Combs was 6' tall, weighed 185 lbs. and was a member of the New York Yankees team and has been elected to The Baseball Hall Of Fame. Children of Earle Bryan Combs and Ruth McCollum;

1. Earle Bryan Combs Jr b 20 May 1925 KY d 7 Feb 1990; buried Richmond Cemetery, Richmond, Madison Co KY, Section T, Lot 40; m. Eulalie Smith

2. Charles Combs b 1928 KY; m. Betty Joe Clark

3. Donald Combs b 1931 KY; m. Pauline Coyle


1930 Bronx New York Census Districts 501-750 District 0726
10 Combs Earl Head M W 31 M 23 KY KY KY Ball Player Professional
10 Combs Ruth Wife F W 28 M 20 KY KY KY Housewife
10 Combs Earl Jr. Son M W 5 S KY KY KY
10 Combs Charles Son M W 2 S KY KY KY
10 Land Artie Maid F W 17 S KY KY KY Maid


1940 Madison Co KY Census District 7
62 Combs Earl Head M W 44 M KY Farmer Farm
62 Combs Ruth Wife F W 42 M KY
62 Combs Earl Jr. Son M W 14 S KY
62 Combs Charles Son M W 12 KY
62 Combs Donald Son M W 9 S KY
62 Turner Rosie housekeeper F W 21 Wd KY Housekeeper Private Family


Earle Bryan Combs

Earle Bryan Combs
Earle Bryan Combs
Earle Bryan Combs left the mountains of eastern Kentucky at 17 to be a schoolteacher, and ended up enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. After young Earle eventually turned his attention to a career in baseball, he earned a spot as centerfielder and leadoff hitter for the famed New York Yankee “Murderers Row” lineup of the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.

The 1927 World Champion Yankee team, which of course also featured Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig among a lineup including five Hall of Famers, is thought by many to be the greatest team in baseball history. However, through all the fame and notoriety gained from his successful baseball career, Earle never changed. A devoted husband and father, he practiced the values learned growing up in Pebworth, Kentucky; honesty, hard work and an unassuming modesty and adherence to “The Golden Rule,” all his life.


A Journey From Pebworth To Cooperstown

Earle Bryan Combs and Joe Dimaggio
Portrait of Earle Bryan Combs Baseball Card by Perez
Earle Bryan Combs 1970 Hall of Fame Plaque
Earle Combs Statistics
Earle Combs Statistics
Earle Combs Statistics
Earle Combs Statistics
Earle Bryan Combs
Earle Bryan Combs
Earle Bryan Combs
Earle Bryan Combs
Earle Bryan Combs
Earle Bryan Combs NY Yankees Coach 1937
Earle Bryan Combs NY Yankees Outfield 1927
Earle Bryan Combs and Babe Ruth 1927
Earle Bryan Combs was born May 14, 1899 at Pebworth, Kentucky in Owsley County, the fifth of seven children of James Jesse and Nannie Brandenburg Combs. A natural athlete, Combs was encouraged by his father, a farmer and community leader, who supplied his children with homemade poplar bats and baseballs. Sturdy tree limbs around the family farm provided the bats; the balls were made by stitching leather, trimmed from worn-out shoes, around a round core of rubber, fashioned from old shoe heels, and tightly wound string.

The rolling eastern Kentucky farmland and hollows around his home place provided ample venues for the pickup games young Earle would organize. Each spring when warmer weather came his siblings and other neighborhood children played as often as they could, whether at recess time at the Pleasant Grove one-room school he attended or later in the evenings, after all the chores were completed.

However, as he grew older and his thoughts turned to making a living, it seemed his beloved hobby of baseball would have to wait. Earle was convinced that his life’s work would be that of a teacher. To pursue this goal, Combs left Pebworth in 1917 to attend Eastern State Normal School (now Eastern Kentucky University) in Richmond, eventually receiving a teaching certificate in 1919. To help pay for his education, he returned to eastern Kentucky to teach in one-room schools in Ida May and Levi.

Baseball would continue to beckon, however. After a stellar performance in a faculty-student game at Eastern in 1918, and following subsequent encouragement from Dr. Charles Keith, a Normal School dean and former pro player who had pitched in the contest, a reluctant Earle agreed to try out for the baseball team.

After successfully making Eastern’s team, it wasn’t long before his prowess on the diamond attracted plenty of attention. He hit .591 at Eastern during his last season there in 1921. As was the custom for most accomplished players of the day, during the summers Combs played semi-professional baseball in several Kentucky towns: Winchester, High Splint, and Lexington.

While playing with the Lexington Reos of the Bluegrass League, Combs drew the attention of the Louisville Colonels of the American Association. Louisville offered Combs a contract that easily topped the $37 per month he had received as a teacher. It was around this time that Earle finally decided a career in baseball might be worth a shot.

With the Colonels in 1922 and 1923, Combs played under manager Joe McCarthy and developed quickly from a raw shortstop into a seasoned centerfielder. It was also in Louisville that Earle developed his career-long reputation as a line-drive hitter, famous for hard smashes through the infield and into the outfield gaps which often went for extra bases. He hit .344 in 1922 and .380 in 1923 for Louisville, coupling those high batting averages with 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 the young outfielder for $50,000, a huge sum at that time. Earle was an immediate success in New York. As a rookie in the summer of 1924, patrolling center field for the Yankees between Babe Ruth and Bob Meusel, Combs hit .400 before being sidelined by a broken ankle. The following season Combs was installed as the leadoff hitter in the famed “Murderers Row” Yankee lineup, a position in the order he would hold for the remaining eleven years of his playing career.

In his greatest overall season, 1927, he led the American League in at-bats (648), hits (231) and triples (23) while hitting .356. Combs also scored the winning run in the World Series in New York’s four-game sweep of Pittsburgh that year.

Led by seven Hall of Famers including Earle Combs, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri pitchers Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock, in addition to manager Miller Huggins, the 1927 Yankee World Champion team is widely thought to be the best baseball team of all time. New York won their season opener and were never headed, spending the entire season in first place.

They blitzed their American League foes with a 110-44 regular season record, while winning the pennant by 19 games, before the World Series sweep of Pittsburgh. Earle contended that one key to the 1927 Yankees’ excellence was a lineup filled with good players, all having their best seasons, and “I always thought that’s what made us so dominant that year.”

L-R: Lou Gehrig, Earle Bryan Combs, Tony Lazzeri and Babe Ruth
Earle Bryan Combs

Earle always seemed to be at his best at World Series time. In 1926, in a losing effort against St. Louis he batted .357 and hit safely in all seven games, and in the famous “called shot” World Series of 1932 he hit .375 as the Yankees swept the Chicago Cubs in four games. He had 43 putouts and never made an error in the 16 World Series games in which he played. Due to a fractured wrist suffered late in the regular season, he was limited to one pinch-hitting appearance in New York’s four-game sweep of St. Louis in 1928.

During his career, he batted over .300 nine times, had 200 or more hits three times, paced the American League in triples three times and twice led all AL outfielders in putouts. His career batting average was .325. As a fielder Earle was widely described as “swift, and sure-handed.” With his speed, and with the lumbering Ruth often beside him, he could and did cover much of the Yankee outfield, leading the league in putouts with 411 in 1927 and 424 in 1928.

The members of the Class of 1970 share a moment at the Induction Ceremony on July 27, 1970. Clockwise from top left are Earle Combs, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, Lou Boudreau, Ford Frick and Jesse Haines. (National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

Combs was a Yankee fans’ favorite, known by such nicknames as “Kentucky Greyhound,” “Silver Fox,” and “Kentucky Colonel.” An introspective and studious family man, the college-educated Combs was considered one of the few real gentlemen on a string of great Yankee teams noted for their fun-loving, boisterous behavior.

Earle’s career was cut short in July 1934 when, on an extremely hot day in St. Louis, where reportedly temperatures on the field climbed over 100 degrees, he crashed into the Sportsman’s Park outfield wall while chasing a towering fly ball. He suffered a fractured skull, broken shoulder and damaged knee. He was near death for several days and was hospitalized for more than two months.

Combs returned to play in 1935, but ended up retiring at the end of the season after yet another injury. Chasing a fly ball in a late-August game against Chicago, he collided awkwardly with another player and suffered a broken collarbone. After this mishap Earle flatly stated “I’m getting out of this game before it kills me.”

Signed on to coach for New York in 1936, Earle helped train his replacement, a young man from San Francisco. In a letter to Combs, Yankee general manager Ed Barrow wrote, “…if young DiMaggio turns out to be as good a ball player as you were, everybody will be satisfied.” That new center fielder was, of course, Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio ended his career with the same lifetime batting average, .325, as Earle Combs.

Combs continued as a coach for Yankees through 1944. He served as a coach for the St. Louis Browns in 1947; Boston Red Sox 1948-1952; and Philadelphia Phillies in 1954. After he retired from baseball, Earle returned to his Madison County, Kentucky farm and remained very active. He served as Kentucky state banking commissioner during Gov. A.B. Chandler’s second administration (1955-1959), and served on Eastern Kentucky University’s board of regents from 1956 until 1975.

Upon his election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY in 1970, the typically modest Combs said he thought the Hall of Fame was for “superstars, not average players like I was.” Baseball historians would beg to differ. Earle Combs was a leadoff hitter for almost an entire career playing for the most storied franchise in all of professional sports. He ended up being part of nine World Championships as a player and coach in New York. All in all, not bad for a fellow who left eastern Kentucky at 17 to become a schoolteacher.

Earle married his childhood sweetheart Ruth McCollum in 1922. They had three sons, Earle Jr., Charles and Donald. Combs died on July 21, 1976, and was buried in the Richmond Cemetery. He has not been forgotten on the campus where his baseball career began. A dormitory at Eastern Kentucky University that bears his name, Earle Combs Hall, was completed in 1962. The school also gives an athletic scholarship in his honor, and he is a charter member of Eastern’s Athletics Hall of Fame.


1927 "Murderers' Row" New York Yankees
No Team has ever been better
Team was managed by Hall of Fame skipper
and featured several Hall of Famers in lineup
Leonard Koppett

Left to Right - Earle Bryan Combs, Bob Meusel, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth
Earle Bryan Combs

They called them "Murderers' Row." In 1927, people weren't as finicky about metaphors glorifying violence or horror. Heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey was the "Manassa Mauler," and football star Red Grange was the "Galloping Ghost." A decade later, Joe Louis would be the "Brown Bomber," other great Yankee teams the "Bronx Bombers," and powerful Chicago Bear football teams the "Monsters of the Midway." So the 1927 Yankees, because of their unmatchable batting power, became Murderers' Row, often delivering their fatal blows in the late innings as "five o'clock lightning," because ballgames started at 3:30 p.m. in those days and were usually over by six o'clock. Were they the greatest team of all-time?

The idea started to take hold only in the late 1930s. The 1927 team, which won 110 games, included Babe Ruth's 60 homers and a sweep of the World Series from the Pittsburgh Pirates, was only the apex of a three-year domination. It included the 1926 pennant and another four-game sweep in 1928. But it was followed immediately by the 1929-31 reign of the Philadelphia Athletics, and when the Yankees of 1936-39 won four World Series in a row, the comparisons solidified into conventional wisdom. In 1969, when professional baseball celebrated its 100th anniversary with much fanfare and glamour, an "all-time" all-star team was named and the 1927 Yankee team was singled out "officially" as the all-time best.

The twin explosions of statistical and historical research were just getting started then, but that designation has endured as established myth. Well, how about it? Who were those Yankees? Were they really the greatest? If so, why? If not, who might have been? The "who" starts with Ruth, whose 1926-28 home-run output was 47, 60 and 54. He played right field at home and left field in many other places, avoiding the sun field. His batting averages were .372, .356 and .323 and he batted in 452 runs. He hit third. Behind him was Lou Gehrig. Nine years his junior, Gehrig hit 47 home runs in 1927 with a .373 average and 175 runs batted it. Only Ruth had ever hit more homers.

NY Yankees get measured at police headquarters with Superintendent Crowley Description: (l to r:) New York Yankees (in overcoats) Sammy Byrd, Tony Lazzeri, Earle Combs, unknown, Red Ruffing, Police Commissioner Mike Crowley, unknown city official, George Pipgras, Eddie Wells, Lyn Lary, and Art Jorgens standing in front of police department "lineup" board.

Behind Gehrig were two right-handed sluggers, Bob Meusel, the left or right fielder, and Tony Lazzeri, the second baseman. Lazzeri's 18 homers ranked third in the whole league. Meusel hit .337 and knocked in 103 runs, Lazzeri .309 with 102. Meusel's 24 stolen bases left him second only to George Sisler's 27 in the American League, and Lazzeri stole 22. Those four could do all that damage because Earle Combs, the center fielder, led off, hit .356 and added 62 walks to his 231 hits (His on-base average was .414). Mark Koenig played shortstop and Joe Dugan third base, while Pat Collins and Johnny Grabowski shared the catching. The team batting average was .307. But pitching, as we all know, is the real source of baseball success.

Manager Miller Huggins, who won six pennants in eight years from 1921-28, had a four-man rotation: right-handers Waite Hoyt and Urban Shocker and left-handers Herb Pennock and Dutch Ruether. A 30-year-old rookie, Wilcy Moore, was one of the earliest relief specialists, starting 12 times but relieving 38. He won 19 games and saved 13 others. Hoyt, Shocker and Moore ranked one-two-three in the league in winning percentage and two-three-one in earned run average. Hoyt won 22, Pennock 19, Shocker 18. Needless to say, the fielding behind this group was first rate, especially in center, at short and at second. So the won-lost record was 110-44. Their margin over the second-place Athletics was 19 games.

Against the first-division teams -- the A's, Senators and Tigers - they went 14-8. They were 17-5 vs. the White Sox, 18-4 against the Red Sox and 21-1 vs. the St. Louis Browns (losing only the last one), but only 12-10 against sixth-place Cleveland. Winning 110 games is not most of all-time. The 1906 Chicago Cubs won 116 (and lost only 36), the 1954 Cleveland Indians 111, the 1998 Yankees 114 (of 162) and, of course, the 2001 Seattle Mariners 116. But the Cubs and Indians lost the World Series that followed, and the Mariners didn't even reach the Series in the expanded postseason now used. The 1998 Yankees did win it, and in a four-game sweep, after winning two preceding playoff series to get there. So in terms of "most successful," the 1998 Yankee single season is supreme: 125 total victories through three postseason elimination series, in a population of 30 teams instead of 16. But "greatest" must have another dimension.

New York Yankees 1927

The Ruth-Gehrig combination has never been equaled. Combs, Lazzeri, Hoyt and Pennock were also Hall of Famers. The degree of superiority over their contemporaries, given the enormously different conditions of different eras, must be taken into account, and their supremacy was extreme. Calling anything "the greatest" can never be free of challenge or argument. But to rank any team above the 1927 Yankees which really means the 1926-28 Yankees -- one would have to make a case based on unimaginable factors. So let's settle for the less glamorous, but more reasonable label: "No team has ever been any better."

Leonard Koppett, a Spink Award winner, covered baseball for six decades. He covered baseball in New York for the Herald Tribune, New York Post and New York Times, also wrote for the Sporting News and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Koppett authored several baseball books including, "Koppett's Concise History of Major League Baseball."


Obituary of Ruth McCollum Combs
1902 - 13 September 1989
transcribed and submitted by Betty B. Gabbard

RICHMOND, KY – 13 September 1989 – Ruth McCollom Combs, 87, a former hospital board chairman and long-time community volunteer, died yesterday (article written in Lexington Herald-Leader, on September 14, 1989) at Kenwood House in Richmond after a long illness.

The Owsley County native and her husband, the late Earle B. Combs, came to Richmond in 1921.  She was best known for her volunteer work in the community, particularly with the local hospital board.  She was chairman of the board when the Pattie A. Clay Hospital was built in 1969.

“We are all saddened by the death of Mrs. Combs,” said Robert R. Martin of Richmond, president emeritus of Eastern Kentucky University.  “She was a gracious lady who devoted her life to her family, friends, church, and the Pattie A. Clay Hospital.

“She was at all times a great supporter of Eastern, and she and Mr. Combs were our very good friends.”

Mrs. Combs was a member of the First Christian Church, Richmond. She was active in the local chapters of the American Red Cross and the Daughters of the American Revolution, and she was a member of the Richmond Woman’s Club, Richmond Garden Club, and other civic organizations.  An active genealogist, she served as the Combs family historian, and she was a charter member of the Boonesborough Historical Society.

Her husband, Earle B. Combs was one of Major league baseball’s greatest players.  A member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, he played for the New York Yankees in the 1920s and 1930s and was a member of the famous Murderer’s Row team of 1927, which included such greats as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Combs was a member of the Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents from 1957 to 1975 and as chairman from 1972 to 1974.  He also was Kentucky’s commissioner of banking.

Survivors include two sons, Earle B. Combs, Jr., Spring Hill, FL, Donald G. Combs, Richmond, director of athletics at Eastern Kentucky University; three sisters, Norma M. Sutton and Martha M. Reynolds, both of Richmond, and Mabel M. Brown; a brother, Charles B. McCollum of Hudson, FL; 11 grandchildren; and 11 great grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the First Christian Church.  Visitation is from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Turpin Funeral Home

Contributions can be made to the Ruth and Earle B. Combs Memorial Scholarship Fund, Eastern Kentucky University Foundation, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, KY 40475-3101


Earle Combs Obituary
14 May 1899 - 21 July 1976
by Ralph Berger

Earle Bryan Combs Tombstone, Richmond Cemetery, Richmond, KY
Earle Bryan Combs Footstone, Richmond Cemetery, Richmond, KY

Earle Bryan Combs as a Louisville Colonel - 1922
(Source) Modesty and mental and physical toughness embodied the spirit of Earle Combs. His ego never outgrew those values during his baseball career and the remainder of his life. The ultimate team player, he was kind, a gentle man whose life was guided by the Bible. In those still rough and tumble times of baseball he stood out as an anomaly and as a beacon of light in a sport that was still under the pall of the 1919 Black Sox scandal. That he was a baseball player and a good one was only the surface of a man who lived his life as purely as he knew how.

Combs was the man in center field between Bob Meusel in left and Babe Ruth in right, a respected ballplayer though eclipsed by his flamboyant teammates. 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." Quiet, modest, and intelligent, Combs said upon his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1970, he said, "I thought the Hall of Fame was for superstars, not just average players like me."

Earle Bryan Combs was born in Pebworth, Kentucky, on May 14, 1899. Of Scottish-German ancestry, he was one of six children of hill farmer James J. Combs and Nannie (Brandenburg) Combs of Owsley County, Kentucky.

This modest man started out to become a schoolteacher after having graduated from Eastern Kentucky State Normal School (now Eastern Kentucky University), where he played basketball, ran track, and played baseball, batting .591 in his final year. Combs began his teaching career in one-room schools in Kentucky. However, he soon found out that he could make more money as a professional baseball player. Batting .444 for the Harlan, Kentucky, team, he was signed by the Louisville Colonels. His first game as a professional player was inauspicious. He made several errors in the outfield, the last giving the opposition the two runs they needed for the win. About his error that lost the game 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."

Combs sat at his locker after the game downcast and wondering what his life would be as a schoolteacher. He had married Ruth McCollum in 1921 and was concerned about being a breadwinner. His doubts about his baseball career were quickly put aside. Joe McCarthy, the manager of the Colonels, knew he had a good, smart player in Combs and told him, "Look, if I didn't think you belong in centerfield on this club, I wouldn't put you there. And I'm going to keep you there." Combs responded by running down fly balls with his great speed and hitting .344.

In 1923 Combs batted .380 for the Louisville Colonels, and in 1924 the Yankees bought him for $50,000 and two players. He did not immediately report to the Yankees spring training camp because he had been promised a percentage of his purchase price that the Colonels had not paid. For all his modesty and gentlemanly demeanor, Combs was not above fighting for what he believed was his due, saying, "I am not a dumb animal to be browbeaten, cowed, lashed, coerced or goaded into anything I do not think is right." The Colonels paid.

When Combs did report to the Yankees, Miller Huggins sat him down and had a long talk with him. At Louisville he had been called "The Mail Carrier" because of his base stealing and speed. Huggins, however, told Combs not to worry about stealing bases but as a leadoff man to wait out the pitcher, get on base any way he could, and let the big guns in the lineup, like Ruth, drive him in. Huggins ended the talk with "Up here we will call you the Waiter." Combs, sensing that Huggins knew what he was talking about, put aside his ego, carried out his skipper's orders, and served the team well in his new situation. Because of the Yankees' great sluggers, Combs never stole more than sixteen bases in a season.

Combs was considered in his time the best leadoff man in the American League. Even with his patience in getting walks and sacrifices he collected at least 190 hits five times and wound up his career with a batting average of .325. A left-handed hitter, he could get an extra couple of steps toward first base, enabling him to beat out infield hits. He was not a pull hitter and used the entire field to spray line shots for hits to all fields. Once he lined a pitch in the gap, it often resulted in a three-base hit. He led the league in triples three times and finished his career with 154 triples, averaging more than one three-bagger for every ten games.

Indeed, triples were Earle Combs' specialty. He hit 10 in every season in which he played at least 122 games. Three times (1927, 1928, and 1930) he ran out 20 or more, leading the league each time. His 23 three-baggers in 1927 are the most in an American League season since 1917, equaled only by Cleveland's Dale Mitchell in 1949. The Deadball Era trio who had better single-season totals is impressive-Sam Crawford, Joe Jackson, and Ty Cobb.

He got off to great start, hitting .400 in the first twenty-four games. Then misfortune struck when he fractured his ankle and was out the rest of the 1924 season. His injury contributed to the Yankees' missing out on the pennant when they finished 2 games behind the first-place Washington Senators.

Combs returned for the 1925 season, his ankle fully recovered. He slammed out 203 hits, scored 117 runs, and batted.324. But the Yankees did not win the flag. Ruth was out much of the season, and several other players had sub-par years. The Yankees finished in seventh place.

The 1926 Yanks-with Ruth back in shape, Lou Gehrig coming into his own, and Tony Lazzeri at second base-won the pennant and faced the St.Louis Cardinals in the World Series. They lost to the Cardinals when in a memorable moment Pete Alexander struck out Lazzeri with the bases loaded, just after Lazzeri had lined Alexander's previous pitch barely foul into the left field seats.

Then came the magnificent year of 1927. Lindbergh flew the Atlantic solo, Dempsey and Tunney had their controversial long count fight in Chicago, and the Yanks with arguably the greatest team ever sailed easily to the pennant. Ruth hit his then astounding 60 homers, and Earle Combs set a club record with 231 hits not to be broken until Don Mattingly eclipsed it in 1986 with 238 hits. Showing his great patience at the plate, Combs set the table time and time again for Ruth and Gehrig and their cohorts.

Defensively the only knock on Combs was his weak arm. As the years went by, he strengthened his throwing arm through exercises, but it was never the rifle he would have wanted. Accordingly, Bill James in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract ranks Combs only 34th in his pick of center fielders.

Although overshadowed by Ruth and Gehrig, Combs was a fan favorite. His quiet demeanor and dogged determination to do his best without much ado endeared him to the fans, so much so that the fans in the right field section of Yankee Stadium took up a collection and bought him a gold watch. Those knowledgeable fans understood his ability to get on base and set the table for the upcoming sluggers as well as his ability to chase down flyballs with his great speed. Combs was always considered the gentleman of the Yankees, earning him the name of the "Kentucky Colonel" for his good manners and quiet dignity. Combs neither smoked nor swore and read the Bible diligently, not caring who knew about it.

Miller Huggins loved the unassuming Combs and Gehrig. Huggins' sudden death in 1929 devastated the team. Combs profoundly felt the loss of Huggins. The Yanks finished third under Bob Shawkey in 1930. In 1931 Joe McCarthy, Combs' manager at Louisville, became the Yankees' skipper. The following year the Yanks won the American League pennant and defeated the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. That was the series in which Ruth was said to have called his home run shot by pointing toward the center field bleachers in Wrigley Field. Was it Ruth's intent to let the Cubs bench and pitcher Charlie Root know where he was going to deposit the next pitch? Combs recalls the event that day. "I can't say whether the Babe was actually pointing to the bleachers. He may have been pointing to the pitcher. What I do remember is that the Cubs who had been on Ruth the entire series were on the top step of their dugout really letting Ruth have it. When he smashed that line drive into the stands the Cubs players in the dugout all fell backward as if they had been machine-gunned."

In 1934 Combs crashed into a wall chasing a fly ball, fracturing his skull and incurring shoulder and knee injuries. He spent two months in the hospital, much of it on the critical list, as doctors feared for his life as well as his career. But Combs with his characteristic mental and physical toughness from his hospital bed said, "You see I'm made of tough stuff" and vowed to return to the Yankees. He returned in 1935 and played in 89 games and also coached. But misfortune struck again, and Combs was out the rest of the season with a broken collarbone. That final injury caused Combs to retire as an active player at the age of 36.

Combs became a full-time coach with the Yankees in 1936. Among his first assignments, he was asked to teach a young ballplayer the special circumstances of playing center field in spacious Yankee Stadium. That young player just up from the San Francisco Seals was Joe DiMaggio. Coincidentally, DiMaggio broke Combs' and Roger Peckinpaugh's jointly held Yankee club record of 29 consecutive games with a hit on his way to a Major League record of hitting in 56 consecutive games in 1941. Combs with his unwavering loyalty to his team helped the young DiMaggio adapt to the center field position in Yankee Stadium.

Combs took his teaching abilities with him in coaching stints for the Yankees, St.Louis Browns, Red Sox, and Phillies through the 1954 season. He then retired to his 400-acre farm in Kentucky.

After his retirement Combs participated in various business and civic ventures. He was a member and the chairman on the Board of Regents of Eastern Kentucky University, his alma mater. A generous person, he quietly and anonymously paid the fees of several needy students attending Eastern Kentucky University.

After a long illness Earle Bryan Combs died on July 21, 1976, in Richmond, Kentucky, at the age of 77. He was survived by his wife Ruth; sons Earle Jr., Charles, and Donald; brother Conley; sister Elsie Seale; and 12 grandchildren. He was buried in Richmond Cemetery, Richmond KY.

This modest, quiet intelligent man from the hill country in Kentucky started out to be a teacher, only to find he had the ability to be a fine professional baseball player. When he gained the respect of his baseball peers, he did not change as a person. He remained the ultimate team player, avoiding the self-indulgent ego he might have embraced. Ruth, Gehrig and the rest of Murders Row may have delivered the fatal blows, but Earle Combs set up the scenes of the crimes. He was the rare individual willing to stand up for himself when the occasion called for it and intelligent enough to be the team player if it meant the success of the whole.


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