Earle Combs

Position: Outfielder
Teams: New York Yankees, 1924-1935

When one thinks of the 1927 Yankees, such names as Ruth and Gehrig come to mind. The man who had the most hits, though, was center fielder Earle Combs. While the Babe pounded 60 home runs, Earle hit .356, collected 231 hits, scored 137 runs, and led the league in triples with 23. “The Kentucky Colonel” spent his entire career with the Yankees during the glory years of Murderer’s Row.

Combs was the first of a long tradition of great Yankees center fielders.
Combs was the first of a long tradition
of great Yankees center fielders.

Earle Bryan Combs (1899-1976) grew up on a farm in eastern Kentucky. He attended Eastern Kentucky State Teachers’ College, where he patrolled center field for the baseball squad. He became a teacher after his graduation in 1921 but soon quit to play ball. He moved up to the Kentucky Colonels of the American Association, managed by Joe McCarthy.

In 1923, Earle led the loop in batting and was purchased by the Yankees. He started 1924 as the Bombers’ center fielder but broke his ankle early in the year. He played his first full season in the majors in 1925.

Combs’s average of .342 in 1925 is one of the highest in history for a rookie. Since he walked a fair amount and almost never struck out, Combs led off for the Yanks, scoring more than 100 runs in eight straight seasons. Although Earle didn’t have a home run stroke, he led the league in triples three times (1927, 1928, and 1930), once hitting three in a single game.

After three pennants in the early 1920s, the Yankees machine ran low in 1924 and 1925. In 1925, Combs and Lou Gehrig became regulars, and in 1926, with rookie Tony Lazzeri, the Yanks resumed their hold on the AL. They lost the ’26 Series in seven games, but won in 1927 and 1928, sweeping each fall classic in four games, though an injured hand forced Earle to miss almost the entire ’28 Series.

Connie Mack’s powerful A’s displaced the Yankees for a few years. In 1932, with Joe McCarthy at the helm, the Bronx Bombers were back, again winning in four games. In 16 games in four World Series, Combs compiled a .350 average, amassed 21 hits, and scored 17 runs. His .350 average in World Series play is one of the highest ever.

Combs’s greatest asset was his speed in the field. He led AL outfielders in putouts for several years. In 1934, while chasing down a deep fly, Earle crashed into the fence at Sportsman’s Park, fracturing his skull and limiting him to just 63 games. After a remarkable comeback, he retired after the 1935 season. Combs was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1970.

Here are Earle Combs's major league totals:





















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