The ace of Connie Mack’s Deadball Era Philadelphia Athletics dynasty, Colby Jack Coombs was better at the top of his game than Hall of Fame teammates Eddie Plank and Chief Bender but didn’t possess their durability. He led the American League in wins twice, helped the A’s garner two World Series championships and once posted a whopping 13 shutouts in a single season. When Colby Jack was at the top of his game there were few better, but he didn’t have the ironman arm that Plank possessed and has been passed over by Hall of Fame voters for decades.
Coombs earned the nickname “Colby Jack” not because he had an affinity for cheese but because he attended Colby College. Connie Mack signed Coombs and brought him up to Philadelphia in 1906. Colby Jack won ten games as a rookie and didn’t surrender a homerun in 173 innings of work. Coombs’ 1907 season was a bit on the shaky side but the A’s still finished in second place because Mr. Mack had such star hurlers as Plank, Bender, Rube Waddell and Jimmy Dygert to call upon. But the eccentric and uncontrollable Waddell was let-go in 1908 and Coombs’ workload increased. He posted a 2.00 ERA but without the Rube the A’s plummeted to sixth place.
Coombs would win a dozen games in 1909 but few would have predicted the monster year he put together in 1910. In one of the single greatest seasons for a pitcher in baseball history, Colby Jack led the American League with 31 wins and 13 shutouts. He finished as the runner-up for the ERA title with an amazing 1.30 mark. The A’s were officially a dynasty and Colby Jack had a lot to do with their ascension. The right-hander worked 353 innings that year and finished third in the league with 224 strikeouts. The A’s captured the pennant and Coombs went a perfect 3-0 in a World Series victory over the Cubs of Frank Chance. Mr. Mack allowed Colby Jack to complete all three of his World Series starts.
Philadelphia repeated as World Champions in 1911. Colby Jack won 28 games which enabled him to win back-to-back victory titles in the junior circuit. He led the league with 40 starts and he was able to complete 26 of them. In the World Series, Coombs won his only decision against John McGraw’s Giants. In Three Fall Classics, Colby Jack fashioned a perfect 5-0 record with a 1.181 WHIP. Then in 1912 Colby Jack put together a string of three straight seasons with 20 or more wins when he notched 21 for the A’s that year. He worked 262 innings but he would never again reach 200 innings in a single season the rest of his career.
Colby Jack only appeared in four games combined between the 1913 and 1914 seasons. Connie Mack, considered the greatest gentleman ever to work in baseball, stuck by Coombs those two seasons, but when he feared Jack would never regain his form he released him in 1915. Coombs caught on in Brooklyn in 1915 and worked 196 innings for the Dodgers. He won fifteen games for the Dodgers but he wasn’t the same pitcher. Always able to strikeout plenty batters, Colby Jack had lost his put-’em-away stuff and posted an atrocious strikeout-to-walk ratio of 0.62-to-1. In 1916 he won 13 games and struck out more batters than he walked, but it was the last time he would do so. After two losing seasons in 1917 and 1918, Brooklyn let Coombs go. He tossed his final Major League pitch with the 1920 Tigers.
W 158/L 110/PCT .590/ERA 2.78/G 354/CG 187/SHO 35/IP 2,320/H 2,034/BB 841/SO 1,052