And the teams have had some outstanding players who established their greatness in the Major Leagues.
So who are the top two Louisville players of all time?
I don’t think many of you will argue with my picks:
Earle Bryan Combs and Harold Henry “Pee Wee” Reese.
Both are in Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Both were from tiny towns that are just dots on the map in Kentucky, Combs from Pebworth in Owsley County and Reese from Meade County, between Ekron and Brandenburg.
Both reached greatness in America’s biggest city, New York City; Combs with the New York Yankees in the Bronx and Reese with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the borough of Brooklyn.
Reese got his nickname because he once finished high in a marbles tournament sponsored by The Courier-Journal. He was such an outstanding player and a leader that he was elected captain of the Dodgers.
As captain, Reese made international news when he broke up a team proposal to strike and boycott games after the Dodgers broke the color line by signing Jackie Robinson, baseball’s first African American.
Combs left the farm and went to college in Richmond at what is now Eastern Kentucky University. After teaching for a short time in one-room schools, the Louisville Colonels learned about him and signed him to his first professional contract
Pee Wee, by then a city boy, graduated from duPont Manual High School and signed with the Boston Red Sox, the parent team of the Colonels.
He was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers, where he beat out Leo Durocher his first year. He wore the Dodger uniform for 16 years in both Brooklyn and later Los Angeles when the Dodgers moved there. He served three years in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1984.
Helped Babe Ruth
Combs had a remarkable 12-year career with the New York Yankees. In 12 years he not only batted a sensational .325 but also was the American League’s finest centerfielder. He was famous for covering a lot of ground for left-fielder Babe Ruth on many days when the Babe had been drinking and chasing skirts the night before.
Combs retired and was appointed Kentucky Banking Commissioner by A.B. “Happy” Chandler, who was elected governor the second time after serving as what he called “High Commissioner of Baseball.”
The Bats, now the name for Louisville’s Triple A farm team of the Cincinnati Reds, have a statue of Pee Wee in front of the Bats’ field. Raise your hand if you think there’s one other statue that should be there. Of course, of Earle Combs.