Miller looks back at 10-year career

Miller looks back at 10-year career

There are three remaining members of the Phillies 1950 pennant-winning Whiz Kids, right-handed pitcher Bob Miller, infielder Putsy Caballero and southpaw Curt Simmons.

Miller is the ancient one, having turned 90 recently (June 15). Four days later, his sister, three children, grandchildren and great grandchildren had a family gathering in his Detroit condo.

"They brought the food. Did everything," Miller said.

When asked if any umpires were invited, he burst out laughing.

Phillies alumni

A native of Detroit, Miller played sandlot ball with Stan Lopata, another Whiz Kid. Following high school graduation, Miller enlisted in the Army. After two years in the military, he enrolled at the University of Detroit, where he was scouted by the Phillies. He signed a $2,500 contract late in 1947, and reported to Terre Haute the following season. In 1949, he was 19-9 with the same club when he was promoted to the majors.

Miller spent his entire 10-year career with the Phillies from 1949-58, although he was in the minors for part of 1951 and 1952 while battling a sore arm. He finished his big league career with a 42-42 record and 3.96 ERA.

Memory Bank

As a rookie in 1950 Miller went to spring training at Clearwater Athletic Field.

"Small clubhouse," Miller said. "We were always bumping into each other. It didn't matter to me. I was so proud to wear a Phillies uniform every time I stepped onto that field. The clubhouse guys washed the uniforms every day and hung them to dry on a couple of long lines outside the clubhouse. Can still see that.

"Eddie Sawyer (manager) came in the locker room at Shibe Park and said, 'Here's the ball,'" Miller added. "I was surprised I was starting. Up until then I had relieved twice, four total innings."

He turned in a complete-game, 2-1 win over the Boston Braves on April 29, 1950.

That win started an eight-game winning streak his rookie season. He finished 11-6.

"Figuring I had a pretty decent rookie year, I went in to negotiate a contract for the next season with Bob Carpenter (owner)," he said. "He offered me a $1,000 raise. Fortunately, later on, he upped it to $4,000."

He once went 4-5 with two RBIs while pitching a shutout against the Cubs in Wrigley field (Aug. 9, 1953).

"I loved playing in beautiful Wrigley Field," Miller said. "I had real good stuff that day, a lot of ground balls as my sinker was working. Smokey [Burgess] was my catcher. Every time he got a hit, I did the same. His fifth at-bat was a home run. I tried to follow but grounded into a double play."

A few years ago, the Cubs, responding to a family inquiry, sent a letter verifying that Miller was the only pitcher in Wrigley Field history to pitch a shutout and get four hits.

The Game Today

"I think the good players in any era could play in any other era," Miller said. "But there's more speed connected with the game today. And I've never seen so many pitchers who are 6-5 and 6-6. I never saw so many pitchers that throw 95 miles an hour. It's just amazing to me."

"The biggest change is pitch counts," he said. "When Robin Roberts used to pitch, hell, you could have a day off. I remember in Milwaukee once, I pitched 12 innings in a nothing-nothing game. We were rained out and nobody even warmed up for me."

"We were not allowed any facial hair or jewelry and now, gee, everybody has a beard, a goatee, earrings, chains around their neck and stuff like that," Miller said. "Tattoos. I guess that's just the way youth is these days."

"We were not allowed to lift weights," he said. "We were not allowed to throw a slider in the Phillies organization for years. They were saving our arms."

"The uniforms. I really don't care for the way they wear the uniforms now," he said. "I used to like the pants halfway up the leg and showing that the socks had different colors for different teams. But they step on them now and nobody says anything. I'm kind of glad we weren't allowed to do that. We had to wear shirts and ties on the road, sports coats or a suit. We had no choice. You did it or you were sent home. No free agency, no agents and no compromising. That's what the owners wanted and, hey, it was a good thing at the time. I wouldn't change a thing.

"I wouldn't mind the money," Miller said. "I read in the paper where a guy won 10 and lost 14, and signed a three-year contract for $15 million. That's what I miss. The good pay checks."

Following his 10-year big league career, Miller coached baseball at the University of Detroit and won over 900 games.

"Robbie was a great teammate and leader," Miller said. "After our careers ended, we coached against each other. I was at the University of Detroit and Robbie was with USF in Tampa. We'd go south in the spring to play a bunch of games and many were against USF."

There are only four who spent their entire big league career in a Phillies uniform (minimum 10 seasons): Mike Schmidt (18), Larry Christenson (11), Miller and Terry Harmon (10). He wore No. 41 in 1949 and No. 19 the rest of his career.

"There's not one day in my life that I'm not thankful for my time with the Phillies," Miller said.

(Paul Hagen contributed to this story).

Larry Shenk is in charge of alumni relations and team historian for the Phillies. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.