Durable and effective was right-hander Charley Miller
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Durable. Competitive. Resilient. And trustworthy.
Who ever heard of a professional minor league baseball player who plied his trade for 12 seasons (interrupted by a two-year stint in the military) and pitched a total of 2,156 innings, before retiring at age 33 after toiling from 1941 through the 1954 season?
Those are a few of the statistics chiseled by Jefferson County athlete Charley Miller when he was a durable and trusted starting pitcher for minor league clubs in Hagerstown, Md., Buffalo, N.Y., Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Raleigh, N.C.
When he was finally finished with minor league baseball, Miller was the guiding force at Rellim Orchard in Kearneysville, where he grew a slew of varieties of apples, peaches and cherries just south of the crossroads toward Leetown, where Route 480 and Route 9 met in “downtown” Kearneysville.
His delicious fruits may have made him a local favorite after his retirement from professional baseball, but it was his summers on the well-worn pitching mounds around the south, mid-Atlantic and even upstate New York that were more remarkable.
Beginning his professional pitching days at age 19 in 1941 with Hagerstown’s team, Miller compiled no fewer than six seasons, with over 200 pitching innings logged. In a season at Fort Lauderdale when he was 28 years old, he pitched over 300 innings. His overall record in his dozen minor league seasons was 131 wins and 129 losses.
Miller’s first three seasons were at Hagerstown, and his first manager in 1941 was Fred (Dutch) Dorman, a long-time player and minor league manager who was still employed as an associate scout in 1984.
At age 22 in 1944, Miller rose to Class AAA and was assigned to Buffalo’s team, but he went into the military first, from 1945 to 1946. When that duty was completed, he was back in Hagerstown for the 1947 season.
While pitching for Raleigh in 1949, he won 18 games and lost only 11 times, his most victories in any one season. To show how durable and trusted he was by the front office in Raleigh, in 1950, he won 14 times but lost 21 games, but never was removed from the team’s starting rotation as it finished way down in the standings.
Manager Dorman and pitcher Miller were re-united in Hagerstown several times, including the 1952 season where the Braves won a league championship.
In his last four seasons — all in Hagerstown — the Braves were at first members of the Interstate League and later joined the Piedmont League.
His beginnings came at age 19 in 1941, and his swan song was in 1954 at age 32 and back in Hagerstown.
One common compliment, that “baseball was in his blood,” can be said of both Charley Miller and Dutch Dorman.
Pitching a remarkable 2,156 innings, and riding creaky buses through much of Pennsylvania, areas in Maryland, Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, Virginia and even upstate New York, proved just how durable the 5-foot-11, 185-pound right-hander was.
Later, climbing through apple trees, cherry trees and peach trees must have seemed tame in comparison to his previous experience, riding in a 1945-made bus all over western North Carolina or the width of the state of Pennsylvania.