Historical Marker 1627 in Pebworth (Owsley County) honors Baseball Hall-of-Famer and New York Yankee Earle B. Combs.
Combs was born on May 14, 1899, in Pebworth. He learned to play baseball there and played with balls made out of string and old shoe material. He left Owlsey County and enrolled at Eastern Kentucky State Normal School (now Eastern Kentucky University). There, he joined the school baseball team after a standout performance in the student-faculty baseball game in 1917. Eastern was established to train teachers and upon graduation, Combs returned to Owsley County to teach.
While leading one-room schools in Owsley County, Combs continued to play semi-professional baseball regionally. In 1922, he accepted a contract to play for the Louisville Colonels of the American Association. He played for the Colonels for two seasons, overcoming some early mistakes in the outfield to develop a reputation as a fast base runner and center-fielder.
Combs joined the Major Leagues in 1924, when the New York Yankees agreed to pay him $50,000. He played for ten seasons, all with the Yankees, with a career batting average of .325. Combs was part of three Yankees World Series victories (1927, 28, and 32). He was forced to retire after a serious injury sustained while running into an outfield wall in St. Louis. He was hospitalized for more than two months with a fractured skull, damaged knee, and broken shoulder. The rehabilitation was long and coincided with the Yankees decision to call-up Joe DiMaggio, who also played center field.
While no longer a player, Combs continued to work in baseball. He was a coach the New York Yankees from 1936-1944. He coached the St. Louis Browns, Boston Red Sox, and Philadelphia Phillies, as well.
Combs retired from baseball in 1954, returning to Madison County. He served as Kentucky Commissioner of Banking during Governor Happy Chandler’s second term (1955-59), and on Eastern Kentucky University’s Board of Regents from 1959-75.
In 1970, Combs was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee. He died on July 21, 1976 in Richmond, where he was buried.
The marker reads:
Centerfielder for Yankees, 1924-35, and coach, 1936-43, Combs helped New York win 11 pennants and 9 World Series. Lifetime batting average .325. This Pebworth native (1899-1976) elected to the Ky. Athletic Hall of Fame in 1963 and to the Baseball Hall of Fame, 1970. With Louisville Colonels, 1922-23. On Board of Regents at Eastern Kentucky University, 1956-75.