05/26/16 / Padres360.com / @Padres360
By Wayne McBrayer
Brewer is a small town in Maine named after its first settler, Colonel John Brewer. It has a population of around 10,000 and has a surface area of 15.68 miles. Out of this very small area would emerged a sports figure who was a star basketball and baseball player … that man is Danny Coombs.
Danny was an excellent basketball player as well as a baseball player but the basketball court was where he shined. Named to the 2nd All-State Team as a junior and 1st All-State Team as a senior, he led his team in the Eastern Maine Championship Tournament scoring 104 points in 3 games and was named the tournament MVP even though Brewer didn’t win the Championship. As a high school pitcher on the baseball team, Danny was known for having a powerful fastball and a devastating curve but it was a basketball scholarship that Seton Hall offered him.
After his freshman year in college, he was approached with an opportunity to play semi-pro baseball. “After my freshman year, a summer league coach was looking for players who would be in New Jersey for the summer, one of the baseball players in my building said I may be interested in playing and the coach came and luckily knocked on my door while I was in.” Danny pitched the next two seasons and scouts took notice of his pitching skills. “It was unbelievable how strong my arm got from high school to college. After that first summer I started to get serious about baseball and got the chance to play in a game in front of scouts from almost every team,” said Danny.
The expansion team, Houston Colt 45’s, liked what they saw and offered him a contact in 1963, which he signed and joined the club. He would make his major league debut later that year on September 29, 1963 against the Mets giving up one run in 1/3 of an inning.
From 1964-1969, Danny would bounce back and forth between the minor leagues and the Astros, sometimes pitching out of the pen and sometimes starting. He became the first pitcher to ever give up a home run in the Astrodome. “I pitched in an intrasquad game before the Yankees came to town, I was the second the pitcher to ever pitch off the mound, and Joe Morgan hit a homerun off of me in the bottom of the first. I’m glad he didn’t get credit for it, but he hit the first home run in the Dome.”
He also had the opportunity to pitch in the first two exhibition games in the Astrodome against the Yankees and got Mickey Mantle to hit into a double play, “I got Mickey Mantle out. He hit into a double play. You don’t know how it feels to have everybody in the Dome – this is your home park – and to look up and see the President Lyndon Johnson, (first lady) Lady Bird, all standing clapping for Mantle. “I’m on the mound. Do you realize how lonely that is? I almost wanted to throw the ball back and say, ‘I’m getting out of here. But he hit into a double play, and I was glad. It was just a fabulous experience in my life.”
On October 22, 1969, the San Diego Padres purchased Danny from the Astros and he would finally get the opportunity to pitch a full season in the majors and he took full advantage of it. The Padres put him in the rotation and he excelled beyond expectations. Despite finishing with a 10-14 record, his ERA was a solid 3.30, which would place him 9th among all starters in the National League (Tom Seaver would win it with a 2.82 ERA). He pitched five complete games with one shutout in 188.1 innings of work. He was awarded the Maine Governor’s Trophy as Maine’s athlete of the year.
Danny struggled during the 1971 season and was sent to AAA. After a brief stint in 1972 with Alexandria, he hung up the spikes and glove for good. After retiring from baseball in 1972, Coombs went on to receive a degree in education from the University of Houston. He stayed in Houston and spent the next 28 years coaching basketball, baseball, and football. The basketball teams he coached won three district championships and one city championship. Brewer High School nominated him for their School’s Hall of Fame, while the state of Maine inducted him into their Maine Sports Hall of Fame in 1997 and their Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.
Danny still lives in Houston and makes occasional appearances with the Astros but his best pitching year in the minors or the majors was as a member of the 1970 San Diego Padres. We hope someday, the Padres will invite him to Petco Park to don the jersey one more time and throw out the first pitch before a game.
We have reached out to Danny and hope to hear back from him.