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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
-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."