Titans mourn the loss of former student-athlete, coach Bob Miller

November 30, 2020
A graphic of Bob Miller, shown as a student-athlete, member of the Philadelphia Phillies and the Titans baseball coach.

Bob Miller readies to throw the ball as a Titan student-athlete.University of Detroit Mercy is in mourning as Bob Miller — a former student-athlete and longtime baseball coach at the University and former Major League Baseball player — passed away on Saturday due to natural causes. Miller was 94 years old.

After serving four years in the military following an outstanding prep career, Miller pitched two seasons for the Titans from 1947-48 before signing with the Philadelphia Phillies. As a freshman, he was 3-2 with a 2.34 ERA and then collected another three wins as a sophomore. 

After his professional days were over, he came back to his alma mater as an assistant coach in 1963 before taking the reins in 1965 following the tragic auto accident that took the life of head coach Lloyd Brazil, his college coach. That turned into 36 years of greatness as he guided his alma mater from 1965 to 2001, recording an 896-780-2 mark, top 30 in NCAA history when he retired and still the most by any coach in the state of Michigan. 

The Titans tallied winning seasons in 25 of his 36 years - including reaching 30 victories nine times with a school-record 36 victories in 1975 - reaching the NCAA Tournament in 1965 and claiming its first-ever MCC baseball championship in 1997. 

During Miller’s time, 16 Titans were drafted by MLB teams, including his son, Pat, in 1990, while over 40 other players signed professional contracts. Two of the players he coached made it to the major leagues in Pete Craig (1966) and Dick Drago (1969).  

Miller signed with Philadelphia in 1948 and enjoyed a 10-year career with the Phillies, appearing in 261 games, starting 69 and going 42–42 with 15 saves and a 3.96 ERA. 

Miller’s outstanding second season in the minor leagues sparked a promotion to the MLB at the end of the 1949 season, where he made his debut at 23 years old pitched in three games and did not allow a run in 2 2/3 innings.

In 1950, Miller was a member of the Phillies' "Whiz Kids" team that won the National League pennant. He finished second for the Rookie of the Year award after going 11-6 with a 3.57 ERA over 190.0 innings pitched, posting one save, throwing seven complete games and notching two shutouts. He was used primarily as a starter, appearing in 25 games with 22 starts.

He won his first game as a major leaguer on April 29, 1950, tossing a complete game in a 2-1 win at home over the Boston Braves, scattering six hits and striking out seven. Miller started his professional career with an 8-0 record and, at one point, had thrown 22 2/3 straight scoreless innings. He would also start Game 4 of the 1950 World Series against the New York Yankees. 

Bob Miller, right, makes a visit with the umpires while coaching the Titans.Miller was part of two historic moments in the 1953 season. First, he was the reliever who entered the game for Philadelphia ace Robin Roberts, who was en route to a major-league record 29 consecutive complete-game starts when he ran into trouble in the eighth inning against the Dodgers. Against the Cubs, he tossed a 7-0 complete game shutout giving up just six hits, but he was also 4-for-5 at the plate with two runs scored and a RBI, making him the only pitcher in baseball history to throw a shutout and get four hits in the same game at Wrigley Field. 

He would make 36 starts between the 1953-54 season and in 1955, he went 8-4 with a 2.41 ERA and allowed only 80 hits in 89.0 innings, with all 40 appearances coming out of the bullpen.  

Miller was a three-sport star in high school, playing baseball, football and basketball at St. Mary's in Redford, Mich., and actually earned a basketball scholarship to the University before pursuing baseball when he came back from the war. 

Miller has been inducted into a number of Hall of Fames, including the Titan Hall Of Fame (1979), Michigan Sports Hall of Fame (1999) and the Michigan Baseball Hall Of Fame (2020). In 2011, he received the John Conti Letterman of Distinction Award, presented to former Titan varsity athletes who go above and beyond at work and in the community.

Final arrangements are being made for family only, but a celebration of his life will be announced in the future. 

In remembrance of Bob Miller

"I was deeply hit when I heard the news of coach Miller passing. 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." - Robert C. Vowels, Jr., Detroit Mercy Director of Athletics 

"Coach Miller was a larger-than-life person to generations of Titan baseball players. He was the man that was watching from behind a distant fence at a remote ballpark on a hot and dusty summer evening, and when he saw a Titan, he knew it. 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. He knew baseball before it could be measured. He loved the game and could feel it in his blood when it was time to squeeze a run in or when a struggling freshman needed a word of confidence. Coach also cherished his players and the University. He made teammates of us, linking generations, and captured an unforgettable era. He earned this legacy. But perhaps 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." - Chris Czarnik, former player from 1984-88 who later was an assistant coach under him and took over as head coach when he retired in 2000 

"I don't know what to say, this is so saddening. We use to drive cars to our games and my first year, we rode a lot with coach Miller and he was such a funny guy and a prankster. I will always remember how lively he was and he loved the school, he loved U-D. One day, I remember in practice, he was pitching to us and he said the way he was feeling right now, he was probably in his late 30's, that he hoped he didn't give up baseball too soon. He loved the game." - Donald Deptula, former player from 1963-66

"This was just devastating. He was a great, great guy, a great coach and mentor and he meant everything to me. That booming voice, the presence he had whenever he walked in a room. He had that personality that everyone loved. He was good to everyone and it's quite a loss. He was everything to me, he gave me my chance, believed in me and gave me confidence and I will always be grateful for that. If you can live a life like him, that's the way to do it. He was a great family man, great baseball guy and couldn't ask for a better coach." - Mike Polvi, former player from 1974-78

Media stories on Bob Miller

MLB.com: Miller looks back at 10-year career

Society for American Baseball Research (SABR): Bob Miller

Philadelphia Inquirer: In memory of Bob Miller - Curt Simmons and Bob Miller, the last two Phillies Whiz Kids, keep the memories alive

Detroit News: Bob Miller, longtime Detroit coach, member of 1950 Phillies 'Whiz Kids,' dies at 94

Philadelphia Phillies: Remembering Bob Miller

Bob Miller and the Titans celebrate winning the MCC championship.