Philadelphia A’s pitcher Jack Coombs had one of the greatest pitching seasons in franchise history, but he is essentially forgotten these days.
Over their history, the Athletics dynasties have been marked by impressive pitching. The list of arms is impressive, with the likes of Rube Waddell, Lefty Grove, Catfish Hunter, Chief Bender, and Eddie Plank all a part of the organization. And yet, the best season in franchise history may belong to a pitcher who is essentially forgotten these days.
Jack Coombs was 27 years old in 1910. He was a spare part for the A’s in his first four seasons, posting a 35-35 record with a 2.45 ERA and a 1.216 WHiP in his 664.1 innings. He was essentially a league average pitcher, with a 105 ERA+ over that time.
But in 1910, Coombs found another gear. Even with Bender and Plank still on the roster, Coombs was the staff ace. He posted what could have arguably been the greatest season in Athletics history, posting a 31-9 record with a 1.30 ERA and a 1.028 WHiP in 353 innings, striking out 224 batters with 115 walks. He led the league in wins and appearances while throwing a league leading 13 shutouts.
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Coombs was just as good in the World Series. He started three games, winning and completing each of them. He won Game Two and Game Five against the great Three Finger Brown, and also started Game Three on just one day of rest. If there had been a Cy Young or MVP award back then, Coombs may well have won both awards.
That season took its toll on Coombs. While he led the league in wins again in 1911, and won 21 more games in 1912, he just was not the same pitcher. A horrific battle with typhoid fever nearly killed him, as he pitched a combined four games in 1913 and 1914. Coombs did make a comeback with the Robins (Dodgers) and had a brief stint with the Tigers in 1920, but was unable to replicate that magic.
Coombs was not done making an impact upon the game when his major league career ended. He wrote a popular baseball instructional book, and ended up coaching at Duke University for 24 years. 47 of his college players ended up reaching the majors, including Dick Groat and Billy Werber, the latter of which also played with the A’s.
These days, Jack Coombs is a relatively forgotten ghost in baseball history. However, he may have had the greatest individual pitching season in Athletics history.