By all accounts, Creighton Miller tries to avoid the spotlight.
When he played baseball for Chadron State College of Chadron, Neb., the 1969 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate was known for how little he said, especially if reporters were around.
Instead, Miller let his bat and glove do his talking during his days with the Eagles (1972-74). Miller's quiet leadership was a big hit with his teammates and coaches - which is why the spotlight will shine on him during Chadron State's homecoming festivities on Saturday, when he will be one of nine former Eagles inducted into the school's Athletics Hall of Fame.
"If I know Creighton, he'll say about two words at the induction ceremony and that'll be about it. He hated the limelight," said Bruce Parish, one of Miller's teammates in college and the current activities director at Chadron High School.
"He's very humble. He's not one who seeks the limelight," said Jamie Parsons, a longtime slow-pitch softball teammate of Miller's on Juneau's local Red Samm-Vintage-Taku Oil juggernaut. "He's one of the nicest guys on earth. Creighton's very competitive, he's just not vocal."
Miller, who now lives in North Platte, Neb., agreed that he's "kind of shy that way," but he will have a lot on his mind when he's introduced on Saturday.
"My first thought was of my mom and dad," Miller said. His parents, Ross and Mary Miller, raised eight kids in Juneau.
"I had one of those dads who was always pitching to us," he said. "My parents were very supportive of us when we were kids, and I know they would have wanted to be around for this. But we lost my dad in 1983 and my mom in 1987. My dad would have been pretty proud of me."
Miller, who played both first and third base, had one of the most consistent careers at Chadron State. After transferring to the school before his sophomore year, Miller hit .338 as a sophomore, .333 as a junior and .336 as a senior. A line-drive hitter known for little power but consistent contact, Miller only struck out 14 times in 265 career at-bats at Chadron, which dropped baseball for budget reasons in 1982. Miller, a left-handed hitter, only hit one home run in college, but that doesn't mean the ball was missing any zip when it left his bat.
"He was just a consistently good hitter," said Parish, who played second base and remains one of Miller's closest friends. "All he hit was line drives. He was as consistent a hitter as I've ever seen. Even in the batting cage, it was line drive after line drive."
"He is probably one of the best magicians with a bat," Parsons said. "Like the saying says, he hits them where they ain't. He's fundamentally as sound a baseball and softball player as you'll see. He can play any position, and he hits like Edgar Martinez. He just goes with the pitch."
When he attended Juneau-Douglas High School, he helped the boys basketball team claim the 1969 state championship. One of his teammates then was current Juneau boys basketball coach George Houston, who ran the point while Miller was a shooting guard.
"Basketballwise, he was a great shooter," Houston said. "But baseball was his game. He didn't like to toot his own horn, but he had a great baseball career. When he played softball here, when the ball came off his bat it was smoking to the hole from third to short. He was steady with a glove, too. In basketball, he was a guard who could put the ball in the hole whenever we needed a basket. The 3-point line (which didn't become part of high school basketball until 1987) would have been made for him."
Miller went to Western New Mexico University when he first went to college, and with a .310 batting average he became one of the team's top hitters as a freshman during the 1971 season. According to a Silver City, N.M., newspaper clip from that season, WNMU coach Jim Gilligan said Miller "is the most coachable kid I have ever worked with, and he has unlimited potential."
When he returned to Alaska, Miller spent the first of his two summers with the Anchorage Glacier Pilots of the Alaska League.
As a local player on what some people consider to be the best Glacier Pilots team ever, Miller didn't get to play much as future Major Leaguers filled a roster that posted a 44-6 record en route to winning the 1971 National Baseball Congress World Series championship in Wichita, Kan. Miller had seven at-bats in 1971 and just one hit, though he scored four runs and had two RBIs. Miller didn't get any plate appearances in 1972.
"My one hit was off Dave Winfield and it was an opposite-field double," Miller said about hitting against the future Baseball Hall of Famer, who was a pitcher-outfielder for the Alaska Goldpanners of Fairbanks in 1971-72.
Miller wanted to continue playing college baseball for Gilligan, but Gilligan left WNMU to coach for Lamar University in Texas. Miller said he would have had to sit out a year for the transfer and he would have lost a year of eligibility to go to Lamar, an NCAA Division I school.
Since WNMU was an NAIA school, Miller could keep his eligibility and play right away if he went to another NAIA school, so he went to Chadron State.
"He was the ultimate teammate. You could always count on him," Parish said. "The thing about Creighton is we could never get him excited. He was always level-headed and he'd never lose his temper, and it's always good to have a guy like that on your team."
For example, Parish said, several of the baseball players were playing intramural basketball against some football players when one of the football players starting taunting Miller. Instead of getting angry, Miller torched the guy, scoring 40 points on him during their game.
"He wouldn't beat you with his mouth. He'd beat you with his game," Parish said.
After he graduated from Chadron State with a physical education degree, Miller returned to Juneau where he worked two years in the Department of Parks and Recreation. In 1976, Miller was hired by the fire department and he worked at the Downtown Fire Station until he retired in 1996. Miller and his family moved to Nebraska in August 1999, where his wife Kathleen's parents have a ranch. Now 51 (he turns 52 in November), Miller works part time for the American Red Cross, helping run bloodmobiles during blood donor drives.
"I'm hoping to get back to Juneau this summer," said Miller, who hasn't been in Alaska since 1999. "When I heard about this (the Hall of Fame), that was very special. I never imagined anything like this."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
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