BREWER, Maine — Former Brewer High School star Danny Coombs was pleased upon hearing of his selection of being honored as Brewer’s Bicentennial Athlete in August, but curious as well.
“My initial reaction was, did they look back into the 1800s to see if there was anyone there?” quipped the 70-year-old Coombs from his home in Houston. “All jokes aside, I was very honored and could not believe it.”
The event is part of several activities and events being held during the year to celebrate the city’s 200th birthday.
With the honor, Coombs will have his number, 21, retired at Brewer High School for baseball and basketball.
“There wasn’t really a contest,” said Joe Ferris, a member of the bicentennial committee and a Brewer city councilor. “The city of Brewer has never honored Danny Coombs and he is undoubtedly our most outstanding athlete, so it was a logical choice.”
Coombs resides in Houston with his wife Donna and only comes back to Brewer to visit every couple of years. Ferris felt that Coombs’ efforts and achievements needed to be recognized before they were forgotten.
“Our city has never recognized his major accomplishments as a high school, college or pro athlete,” said Ferris. “What he did was quite an accomplishment from a Brewer boy and we want to show how proud and we are for him.”
Coombs starred at Brewer from 1957-1960, where he led the basketball team to the state championship game in 1960 and was a successful hard-throwing lefthander for the baseball team.
After graduating, Coombs received a scholarship to play college basketball at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, where he played two years for the Pirates. Coombs did not play baseball in college, but latched on with a semipro team in the summer after his freshman year at Seton Hall.
“After my freshman year, a summer league coach was looking for players who would be in New Jersey for the summer,” said Coombs. “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.”
Coombs pitched in the summer league for the next two years, and garnered interest from major league scouts.
“It was unbelievable how strong my arm got from high school to college,” said Coombs. “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.”
The Houston Colt .45s, now the Astros, lured Coombs away from school and signed him to a contract in 1963.
Coombs would debut in 1963 and go on to play nine years in the major leagues with Houston teams and the San Diego Padres.
He compiled a 19-27 record and a 4.08 ERA over his career, pitching as a starter and reliever. His most successful season came in 1970 when he was 10-14 over 34 appearances, registering a 3.30 ERA and striking out 105.
Also in 1970, Coombs was presented the Maine governor’s trophy as Maine’s athlete of the year.
“He was the guy that set the standard for our athletes and everybody since has been measured to him,” said Ferris, also a standout pitcher at Brewer High who went on to lead the University of Maine to its first College World Series in 1964 when he named the CWS most valuable player.
After retiring from baseball in 1971, Coombs went on to receive a degree in education from the University of Houston and taught and coached at the high school level for 28 years.
The public is welcome to join in honoring Coombs at a banquet 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18 at Schooner’s Seafood and Steakhouse in Brewer. Tickets are $40 and those interested in attending must RSVP to Ferris at 207-989-8506 or firstname.lastname@example.org by Aug. 15.