Harry Kalas, Richie Ashburn Remembered By Phillies Pitcher Pat Combs

Combs signature
swirls like a
tight curve ball!

When do you know you’ve made it? When do you feel like you belong?

I asked Philadelphia pitcher Pat Combs what his four-hitter versus the Cardinals during his 1989 rookie season meant. (Thanks http://www.retrosheet.org/ for the memories!) Combs wrote:

“The Cards game was great! What I most remember is that it proved to me how good my ‘stuff’ was. It showed me that good pitchers get hitters out. The key is to make good pitches.

My wife was in the stands that day.”

Combs should get extra credit for his final-month victories in 1989 and ’90. I pointed out that pitchers are facing September call-ups, guys without substantial scouting reports. By contrast, word spreads fast about how pitchers are pitching. Combs added:

“When I arrived in ’89, I had the same type of finish. I seemed to get stronger as the year progressed. The only attribution I could come up with is that my fitness level was extremely high. I would stay in great shape throughout the season, and simply outworked most of my peers.”

Two reasons that Combs remains memorable to Phillies fans are announcers Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn. What does the former pitcher cherish from these beloved voices?

“Harry K and Richie (Whitey) were great men. They so much enjoyed the game and the players. We could sit and talk for hours with them. Both were very kind and gentle men.”

After reading about Combs’ Christianity, I decided to end my letter with my favorite Biblical passage. Combs replied:

“Tom, yes, James 2:14-17 are great verses. We must always practice what we preach, and walk in the ways of our Lord Jesus. He showed us the Way!


Coming Monday: writing to baseball family members.

Meet Phils Pitcher Bob Miller (the FIRST)

Rookie of the…Me?

The 1950 Phillies “Whiz Kids” team lives on in the minds and hearts of fans and collectors, thanks to proud alums like pitcher Bob Miller, who furnished a kind reply to my questions.

First, I wanted to ask if he ever imagined himself going to the World Series in his first full year.

“Dear Tom,

From the first day of spring training, we thought we could win the pennant.”

I asked how he felt about the results of the 1950 National League Rookie of the Year balloting. The 11-game winner finished second in votes to Boston Brave Sam Jethroe. This answer floored me.

“I was never informed that I finished second in the voting. I found out about two years later.”

Today, agents would have incentive clauses getting bonuses for a player who finished so high in the vote totals.

Lastly, I thought I’d point out that I knew WHICH pitcher Bob Miller I was addressing. I asked Robert John Miller for examples of getting mixed up with the other two “pitcher Bob Miller” late arrivals.

“Yes, I met both Bob Millers. They became good friends.

Thanks for the nice letter.

Bob Miller
1950 Whiz Kids”

Phillies Fan Stan Price Perfects Custom Cards

Stan Price’s Tribute to
The Man Who Came to Play

There’s a new movement in autograph collecting. Instead of fretting about how there’s nothing new to collect, these trend-setters are making their own collectibles. Some are creating cards they design themselves. Others are devising their own photo collages.

One of these leaders is Stan Price. I’m grateful to this Phillies collecting machine, who took time out from the hobby to share some experiences.

Q: Of your 1,200 different, when and where did you get the idea? These are blank backed and card sized, I’m guessing?

 A: The cards are indeed blank backed and card sized. I began collecting near 1989 when the Scranton Wilkes Barre Red Barons came into existence. I was getting autographs on logo balls but I found out the hard way that the autographs would fade with time. So I brainstormed and came up with a 3.5″ x 5″ photo of an actual baseball. They were inexpensive and portable.

My next lesson was to ID the autographs because some are hard to identify. I began putting the signed “baseball” with a photo of the player. The next logical step was to produce a card of the players and I said “What the heck, make one for each player who has every played for the Phillies and get as many signed as I can.”

Q: I know little about computers. How hard has it been finding the skills (Photoshop?) to do this?

A: I use Microsoft Word for making the cards since the design is rather basic. Since it’s an ongoing set, I don’t want to change up the design on a  yearly basis. Once I have a photo, I can make a card in 2-3 minutes.

Q: Where are you finding images of these cup-of-coffee Phillies?

A: That’s a fun and challenging part of the hobby. Team publications, of course, pictorial baseball histories, internet surfing and the good old library.

Q: Had you collected autographs TTM before making your customs? Do you get other cards signed, too? How has the response differed since you’ve started including a custom?

A: Like I stated before, I had a ton of logo baseballs and some odds and ends. But I never really collected cards. A lot of the players especially the retired ones often comment on the idea.

Q: Can you site a specific former player who has given great feedback, or asked for extra customs to share? I know some guys in years past write and say, “Sorry. I have no photos.”

A: I can think of two ex-players who seemed the most impressed:

Ron Diorio, who asked for some extras as did Rich Barry, who never had a card produced for him. He wanted to show his family how handsome he was as a young man.

Q: Please, would you share a peek at one of your customs?

A: I’ve attached my favorite card. Danny Litwhiler who looks like he came to play that day.

I hope everyone receives as much enjoyment as I do with their collections. I would also thank the membership of www.sportscollectors.net in helping obtain some autographs as well.

Stan has welcomed questions and comments from other Phillies collectors or hobbyists who’d like to create their own custom “cards.” E-mail Stan at pm18231@yahoo.com

George "No-Hitter" Culver Recalls 1968

Pitcher George Culver’s major league career spanned from 1966-74. His moment of glory as a Reds hurler came on July 29, 1968. The right-hander twirled a no-hitter against Philadelphia, the team he concluded his career with.

The inning-by-inning results only hint at the drama, which included a pitcher who started the DAY with an upset stomach.

George showed his gratitude after the no-hitter, writing the home plate umpire Harry Wendlestedt a thank-you note!

Ironically, that same 1968 season, he led the league with 14 hit batsmen.

What did he remember about his no-hit batterymate? And, did batters start crowding the plate after his no-hit success?

Culver’s reply:


Thanks so much for your interest in my career.

1. The catcher is crucial to any pitcher in any game, good or bad. The reason Pat Corrales caught the no-hitter is because it was the second game of a doubleheader and Johnny Bench had caught the first game and needed a rest. They were both great defensive catcher and I enjoyed throwing to either of them. But because Bench was obviously the regular catcher, I ended up throwing more to him.

2. I wasn’t really wild by the main reason I led the league in hit batters was because I was known for having a pretty good slider. So right-handed hitters would get caught leaning out over the plate looking for a slider and would get hit with a fastball inside.”

Culver’s enduring fame is found at his grateful alma mater. He’s raised funds and awareness for the baseball program at Bakersfield College. He may be 66, but Culver never will be a guy to lean over the plate against.

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