Jack Coombs

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John Wesley Coombs
(Colby Jack)

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Biographical Information[edit]


Colby Jack Coombs played 14 seasons in the big leagues, twice leading the American League in wins. He played in three World Series, posting a 5-0, 2.70 record in six starts (four complete games). Following his playing days, he was a longtime college baseball coach.

The most successful player to come out of Colby College, Coombs signed with Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics and made his big league debut three weeks after graduation, July 5, 1906. Jack kicked off his career on a high note, spinning a seven-hit shutout in blanking the Washington Senators, 3-0. He posted a 10-10, 2.50 record as a rookie, including an insane 24-inning complete game victory against the Boston Americans on September 1st. He battled Joe Harris in that game and both pitchers went all the way. racked up 18 strikeouts while Harris picked up 14; their combined total of 32 has not been matched since. The 18 strikeouts were an American League record at the time. He went 25-25 over the next three years despite really good ERAs, including a 7-5, 2.00 season in 26 games in 1908.

Coombs had one of the most dominant seasons in history in 1910. He finished 31-9 with a tiny 1.30 ERA, leading the AL in victories, games pitched (45) and shutouts (13!; still an AL record) while striking out 224 men in 353 innings. He went 18-1 in July alone and racked up 53 consecutive scoreless innings, the big league record until contemporary Walter Johnson passed him three years later. On August 4, he matched his record of 18 strikeouts in another marathon game, this one a 16-inning scoreless tie. On the back of Jack, the A's faced off with the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. Jack made three starts in the five-game triumph and excelled on both sides of the ball, going 3-0 with three complete games and a 3.33 ERA plus batting .385 with a double and three RBI.

It was another great season for Jack in 1911, though not nearly as otherworldly. He finished 28-12, 3.53, leading the loop in victories and starts (40) with 185 strikeouts in 336 2/3 innings. He also hit .319/.356/.418 with 2 home runs and 23 RBI as the A's marched to another World Series. Though not as taxed, pitching only twice against the New York Giants, he was 1-0, 1.35 as the A's repeated as world champions. He enjoyed a final 20-win season in 1912 (21-10, 3.29), then was stricken by typhoid fever during spring training 1913, nearly dying. He was back in full force with the Brooklyn Robins in 1915; though his workloads were no longer Herculean, he did win 28 games over the next two seasons while making a final World Series appearance in 1916, winning Game 3 of a series the Boston Red Sox would ultimately take. Jack had two more seasons in Brooklyn, both losing seasons, before finishing his career with a two-game stint on the Detroit Tigers in 1920. He finished his career 158-110 with a 2.70 ERA in 354 games.

Coombs was a college coach at Rice University (1918). He managed the Philadelphia Phillies for part of the 1919 season and was a member of the Detroit Tigers coaching staff in 1920. He was a coach at Williams College from 1921 to 1924 and Duke University from 1929 to 1952. An impressive 47 of his Blue Devils reached the majors. Perhaps the most prominent were Billy Werber and Dick Groat; his nephew, Bobby Coombs, was one of the Dukies to follow him to the bigs.

Additionally, Coombs wrote a widely read instructional book, Baseball: Individual Play and Team Strategy. During the 1911 off-season, he went on tour with teammates Chief Bender and Cy Morgan performing in a vaudeville show called "Learning the Game". He was inducted posthumously onto the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame in 1992.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time AL Wins Leader (1910 & 1911)
  • AL Games Pitched Leader (1910)
  • AL Shutouts Leader (1910)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 4 (1910-1912 & 1915)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 3 (1910-1912)
  • 25 Wins Seasons: 2 (1910 & 1911)
  • 30 Wins Seasons: 1 (1910)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 4 (1909-1912)
  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 2 (1910 & 1911)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 1 (1910)
  • Won three World Series with the Philadelphia Athletics (1910, 1911 & 1913; he did not play in the 1913 World Series)

Preceded by
Pat Moran
Philadelphia Phillies Manager
Succeeded by
Gavvy Cravath

Year-By-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1919 Philadelphia Phillies National League 18-44 -- Philadelphia Phillies replaced by Gavvy Cravath on July 9

Further Reading[edit]

  • John P. Tierney: Jack Coombs, A Life in Baseball, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2008.

Related Sites[edit]