Bob Miller, Phillies ‘Whiz Kid’, longtime Detroit Mercy baseball coach, dies at 94

Detroit Free Press

Kirkland Crawford
 
| Detroit Free Press

Bob Miller, one of the former Philadelphia Phillies’ “Whiz Kids” who went on to be the longtime head coach of Detroit Mercy baseball, died on Saturday at the age of 94.

Miller coached the Titans from 1965-2001, leading to 25 winning seasons in 36 years, a 1965 NCAA tournament appearance and winning the first-ever Mid-Continent Conference title in 1997.

The three-sport star at Redford St. Mary’s was offered a basketball scholarship at University of Detroit, but was instead drafted into the Army in 1944. He joined Detroit’s baseball team in 1947, when he was discovered by a Phillies scout. 

He went on to pitch 10 seasons in the majors and was second in National League Rookie of the Year voting in 1950. That year, he — along with former Michigan State star Robin Roberts — lifted Philadelphia to the World Series against the New York Yankees. Miller started Game 4 against another rookie, Whitey Ford.

“I was deeply hit when I heard the news of coach Miller passing,” Detroit Mercy athletic director Robert Vowels said in a release. “He was an icon here for so many years and touched so many players. I hear stories all the time of how much he meant to this University and how much he loved U-D. I have had the chance to talk to him and his kids since I have been here and something that always comes across is the love and pride for the University that the Miller family has. He will truly be missed by everyone.”

A broken wrist in 1958 ended his major league career, but not before he’d gone 42-42 with a 3.96 ERA and 1.382 WHIP over 261 appearance and 68 starts.

After a few years into his third career, in insurance, he was asked to become an assistant coach at U-D. When head coach Lloyd Brazil died in a car accident in 1965, Miller was promoted. 

During Miller’s tenure, 16 Titans were drafted into the major leagues. He was 896-780-2, the most wins of any coach in Michigan college baseball history.

“Coach Miller was a larger-than-life person to generations of Titan baseball players,” said Chris Czarnik, one of Miller’s former players and assistant coaches who replaced Miller as head coach. “… Decades later, he could make a former player beam with pride by recalling that moment, ‘I remember the first time I saw you swing that bat; he would say, and bring alive a detail of a ringing double in Redford or Livonia or East Detroit — and how he wouldn’t leave your driveway that night until you told him you would be part of his team. …

“(P)erhaps the thing I’ll remember coach most for is how his children looked up to him and how proud he was of them. You could see it in their eyes and hear it in his unforgettable voice. I know I speak for all Titans in expressing our love and condolences to his family upon the loss of this legendary man.”  

Miller was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Michigan Baseball Hall of Fame this year.

Contact Kirkland Crawford: kcrawford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @HiKirkHere.

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