A Light Hitting Infielder Became a Soda Vendor

Merl Combs made his first (and final) baseball card appearance as a player in the 1952 Topps set. He was a light-hitting infielder for the Red Sox and Indians, finishing his five season career with a .202 batting average. Never known for his bat, he did manage 4 RBIs in his rookie game against Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Lemon. Combs’ fielding was seen by many as a distinct positive, though the lack of offensive production ultimately limited his career. After baseball he became a sales rep for Pepsi. One has to wonder if the calls of stadium soda vendors reached his ears in the dugout and influenced his next move.

Someone checked to see if their pen was in working order in 1952.
Give credit where it’s due…Combs’ defense managed to keep his WAR positive despite this batting line.

Combs Sneaks Into An Additional Card Two Decades Later

Earlier I said 1952 Topps was the only baseball card in which Merl Combs appears. That is correct as far as mainstream issues go during his MLB career, but there are other appearances. He can be found in various reprints of the ’52 Topps set and has at least one Pacific Coast League card. Still, each of these sets are outside the interest of most collectors.

He does, however, make his way into the very popular 1975 Topps set. Card #511 carries a team photo of the Texas Rangers with a checklist of Rangers cards on the back. The team is pictured with the expansive bleacher seats of Arlington Stadium in the background. Somewhere in that photo is Merl Combs who served as a hitting coach from 1974-1975.

July 2023 Edit: Sam Gazdziak’s RIP Baseball recently published a much better summary of Combs’ life and baseball career.