New York Yankees: 50 greatest players of all-time

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CF-LF. 1924-35. Earle Combs. 28. player. 43.

The Yankees landed a star when they purchased center fielder Earle Combs from Louisville of the American Association in January 1924.

Combs had hit a robust .380 at Louisville in 1923 with 75 extra-base hits while patrolling center field with his blazing speed.

He was late reporting to the Yankees because of a dispute with the Louisville club over his share of the $50,000 purchase price, according to the Society for American Baseball Research, before missing most of the season with a broken ankle.

But in 1925, Combs took over the everyday duties in center field and became a fixture at the top of the batting order, setting the table for the Murderers Row lineup.

In 1927, Combs led the American League with 231 hits and 23 triples and would twice more lead the AL in three-baggers, pelting 21 in 1928 and 22 in 1930.

He was also a standout in World Series play, hitting .350 with a homer and nine RBI in four appearances (he did miss most of the 1928 series with an injury).

In 1934, Combs career took a dramatic turn when he injured his shoulder and knee and fractured his skull crashing into a wall chasing a fly ball. He spent two months in the hospital, much of it in critical condition, but returned in 1935 as a player-coach.

Combs appeared in 89 games before a broken collarbone ended his season and prompted him to retire at age 36.

He coached with the Yankees and three other clubs from 1936-54 before returning back to his farm in Kentucky.

In 12 seasons with the Yankees, Combs hit .325/.397/.859 with a 125 OPS+ to go with 154 triples, 58 home runs, 633 RBI and 1,186 runs scored.

A Veteran’s Committee selection into the Hall of Fame in 1970, Combs died July 21, 1976 at the age of 77 after a long illness.