And then there was one. Bob Miller passed away this weekend at the age of 94, leaving rotation mate Curt Simmons as the sole surviving member of the Phillies' 1950 NL Championship team. The Detroit, Michigan native spent his entire 10 year with the Phillies and was a member of the 1950 Whiz Kids starting rotation.
Born on June 16, 1926 in Detroit, Michigan, Miller was a three sport athlete at St. Mary's of Redford High school. His skills as a pitcher attracted the attention of the local Detroit Tigers while his escapades on the basketball court earned him a scholarship offer from the University of Detroit. But baseball and basketball had to wait because upon graduation Miller was drafted into the Army in 1944, where he saw combat action in the Philippines. After finishing his two year Army commitment in Japan, Miller enrolled at the University of Detroit in 1947 where he played baseball. Miller declined offers from the Reds, Cardinals, White Sox, Tigers, and Phillies but the Phils had an ace up their sleeve. Scout Ed Krajnik played with Miller during their American Legion days as kids. Krajnik made a good impression on Miller as the pitcher signed for the Phils in January 1948 for a $25,000 bonus. He spent two seasons in the minors before being called up to the big club in September 1949.
Miller's pitching arsenal was comprised of a deceiving fastball, a devastating curveball, and a sinker that dropped off the table. It separated him the pack during spring training in 1950 as he earned one of the coveted rotation spots for season. He opened the season with eight straight victories before losing his first game on July 16 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Despite a back injury he sustained while boarding a train for Boston, Miller went 11-6 in 35 games (21 starts) with a 3.57 ERA. He was second in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 1950, behind Sam Jethroe of the Boston Braves. Manager Eddie Sawyer started Miller as the Game 4 starter in the 1950 World Series. Said Sawyer, “I have to just go along with the kid because he has done everything I have asked him to do this year. I’m sure he’ll continue to give us good pitching — so now if my hitters get going and we lose our fielding jitters maybe we can show the folks today how good a ballclub we really are.” Miller was opposed by the 1950 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Edward "Whitey" Ford. After three straight one run defeats, the Phils lost the fourth and final game 5-2, ending a miracle run that served as the franchie's lone World Series appearance between the Woodrow Wilson and Ronald Reagan administrations.
Miller retired from baseball during the 1959 season, compiling a 42-42 record with a career 3.96 ERA. He returned to the University of Detroit in 1963 where he served as assistant baseball coach. In 1965, after head baseball coach Lloyd Brazil died as the result of a car accident, Miller ascended to the head coach's position. Over 36 seasons as head coach of the University of Detroit baseball team, Miller compiled a record of 896-78-2. He was elected to the school's hall of fame in 1979 and the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.
All but two Whiz Kids have passed on in the 70 years since their improbable run to the 1950 NL Pennant. Miller and Cut Simmons spoke to one another on the telephone often. Despite their being separated by some 600 miles, the two made it a point to check in on one another and discuss the old days. The Inquirer's Frank Fitzpatrick wrote in an August 2020 piece that "These conversations are much-anticipated rituals, two old men happily summoning sepia-toned reflections on places they visited, hitters they faced, teammates they lost. (Paul Stuffel, who relieved in three 1950 games, was the last, in September 2018.)" Simmons told Fitzpatrick that Miller "remembers everything".
As the Whiz Kids fade into the sands of time, their memory will live on. Miller's son, Bob Jr., is currently writing a children's book titled Life Lessons From a Whiz Kid".