-Earle Combs is cited as an originator of the term “Five O’Clock Lightning”, a Yankee rallying cry during the 1920’s and 1930’s.  The term comes from the fact that most games began in mid-afternoon during that era, and the late innings of those games fell around 5:00pm.   The Yankees, then as now, had a habit of winning many games with late inning rallies.  

 

-In 1929 the Yankees became the first team to permanently use numbers on the backs of their uniforms.  In prior years other teams had placed numbers on sleeves or had implemented them temporarily.  The simplicity of the Yankee numbering system was staggering-the regular starting eight players were given numbers one through eight-hence, for example, Babe Ruth’s #3 and Lou Gehrig’s #4.  As the leadoff hitter for New York in 1929, Earle Combs was assigned #1, and thus may have become the first player to hit identified by a permanent uniform number.   Interestingly, he did not keep that number when he became a Yankee coach in 1936-he wore uniform #32. 

 

-Amazingly, only three players served as the regular centerfielder for the Yankees for the 45-season span from 1924 through 1968:  Earle Combs 1924-1935; Joe DiMaggio 1936-1951; Mickey Mantle 1952-1968. 

 

-The highest salary earned by Earle Combs over a single season was $13,500.  He earned this amount under two consecutive two-year contracts in 1928 & 1929 and 1930 and 1931.  The Yankees reaped the benefit of Earle’s services during the banner 1927 season, when he hit .356 as Murderers Row leadoff man and led the league in at-bats, hits and triples, for $10,500.

 

-Earle once achieved a time of 10 seconds flat when clocked in the 100-yd. dash.  During his college days at Eastern State Normal, in addition to his baseball success, he had lettered in track and basketball.  He was captain of the basketball team for three years, and in a track meet in the spring of 1921 once finished first in six events, the 100, 220 and 440 yd. dashes as well as the shot put, broad jump and discus throw.

 

-Combs tried his hand at golf at the newly built Madison Country Club in Richmond in 1922, and promptly scored a hole in one during his very first nine.  He gave up the game immediately after that round, apparently figuring that he would never improve on his luck.  

 

-Combs’ reckless abandon in the outfield and on the base paths translated into an injury-prone career.  It should be noted that this was in the day before outfield fence padding and warning tracks became standard at major league parks: 

 

-His rookie season of 1924 was ended in June in a game against Cleveland when he broke his right ankle sliding home after his cleats caught awkwardly around home plate.

 

-In 1928 Earle missed the last few games of the regular season and was limited to one pinch-hitting appearance in the World Series when he fractured a bone in his wrist after a collision with the outfield wall in Detroit. 

 

-In the most serious injury of his career, in July 1934 at Sportsmans Park in St. Louis Earle suffered a fractured skull and broken left collarbone chasing a deep line drive off the bat of Browns third baseman Harlan Clift.

 

-In one final outfield mishap, in August 1935 Earle sustained torn ligaments in his shoulder after a collision with Yankee infielder Red Rolfe.  While he did come back to appear in one late September game as a pinch-runner, this injury basically ended his playing career.

 

As leadoff hitter and "table-setter" for the potent New York Yankee Murderer's Row offense, Earle Combs was without equal.  The perception that he always seemed to be on base for Ruth or Gehrig or the other Yankee sluggers was based in fact.  Earle was the first player in modern major league baseball history to score at least 100 runs in his first eight full seasons, achieving this feat from 1925 to 1932.  Since then, only Boston Red Sox star Ted Williams, who did it from 1939 to 1949 (eight non-consecutive seasons due to military service from 1943 to 1945) has been added to this very exclusive list.  Modern day Yankee player Derek Jeter came close, with a seven-season string from 1996 through 2002."