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Whiz Kid Miller fondly remembers time on the hill

Righty, who pitched from 1949-58, attended Alumni Weekend at Citizens Bank Park

Everyone who has found success in a big league uniform has at least one special game that he will never forget. For some, trying to pick just one can be difficult.

For 87-year-old Bob Miller, the right-handed pitcher with the 1950 Whiz Kids, his game to remember was an easy choice.

"My first start in the Major Leagues," Miller said without hesitation. "[Manager] Eddie Sawyer came in the locker room at Shibe Park and said, 'Here's the ball.' I was surprised I was starting. Up until then, I had relieved twice -- four total innings."

Miller turned in a complete game, as the Phillies beat the Boston Braves, 2-1, on April 29, 1950.

Miller plunked the first batter he faced. Then, with one out in the first inning, the Braves scored an unearned run. Miller settled down and blanked Boston the rest of the way, giving up six hits and fanning seven.

"It got scary in the ninth -- a two-out walk, double and another walk loaded the bases," he said. "Sawyer let me stay in. Earl Torgeson lined out to Del Ennis in right field. There was no postgame show or pie in the face then, just a lot of high fives and handshakes from my teammates."

Miller's first big league victory began a streak of eight consecutive wins, a Phils rookie record. His first loss came on July 16 in the second game of a doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals.

When the Phillies' pennant-winning season ended, Miller had an 11-6 record. He started once in the World Series against the New York Yankees and lost the fourth and final game, 5-2.

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

Miller relieved Robin Roberts when his streak of 28 consecutive complete games ended on July 9, 1953, against the Brooklyn Dodgers.

"Robbie gave up two runs in the eighth inning, and I relieved him. I walked one and got two fly balls. We scored two in the eighth, and I wound up the winner," Miller said.

"We went out to dinner after the game. What a great teammate and leader he was. After our careers ended, we coached against each other. I was at the University of Detroit and Robbie was with [the University of South Florida] in Tampa. We'd go south in the spring to play a bunch of games, and many were against USF."

In Miller's 10-year career with the Phils, his Aug. 9, 1953, start at Wrigley Field also stands out. It was the first game of a doubleheader against the Cubs. He not only pitched a six-hit shutout, but went 4-5 with two runs and an RBI.

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

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.

A Detroit native, 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. Miller signed a $2,500 contract late in 1947 and reported to the Phils' affiliate in Terre Haute, Ind., the following season. In 1949, he was 19-9 when he was promoted to the Majors.

Miller's big league debut came on Sept. 16, 1949, pitching in relief in the eighth inning of a 2-1 loss at Cincinnati. Few have a memory of that game, as attendance was 1,185.

Miller stayed with the Phillies organization for his entire career, from 1949-58. He finished his big league career with a 42-42 record and a 3.96 ERA.

"There's not one day in my life that I'm not thankful for my time with the Phillies," said Miller, who was one of more than 50 alumni covering five decades who attended August's Alumni Weekend at Citizens Bank Park.

Larry Shenk is a contributor to
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