James Rayner Noble
- Bats Both, Throws Left
- Height 5' 10", Weight 170 lb.
Rayner Noble pitched as high as AAA then became a college coach.
Noble was a teammate of Roger Clemens in high school. In college, he teamed with Doug Drabek. In 1983, Noble won 12 games with a 1.32 ERA to win All-American honors as a utility man from the American Baseball Coaches Association. He became the first Houston player to be named Southwest Conference Player of the Year. The Houston Astros took him in the 5th round of the 1983 amateur draft, higher than Drabek would go. He was the third straight pitcher Houston took in the draft - none of them made the majors.
Noble began his career with the Daytona Beach Astros, going 6-5 with a 3.36 ERA. In 1984, he returned to Daytona Beach and improved to 9-4, 2.64. He also hit okay, 6 for 23 with two doubles and three walks. Had he qualified, he would have been third in the Florida State League in ERA behind Bill Hawley. He failed to make the FSL All-Star team. With the 1985 Columbus Astros, he was 6-0 with two saves and a 2.52 ERA. He had the lowest ERA of any Columbus hurler with 15+ innings, a group which included Don August and Roger Samuels.
Noble split 1986 between Columbus (6-4, 4.52) and the Tucson Toros (3-3, 5.40), struggling in his return to the rotation. Back with Tucson in 1987, he was 0-1 with 12 hits, 4 walks and 8 runs in 6 1/3 IP. With repeated arm injuries and a growing family (he had two daughters) that needed his attention, he decided to end his playing career.
From fall of 1987-1991, he was assistant coach at his alma mater, working with Woody Williams. He was then assistant coach at Rice University from 1992-1994. In May 1994, he returned to Houston, now as head coach. He won 26 games his first year, including a win over then-#1 Louisiana State University. In 1997, Houston went 40-23. The team won the Conference USA regular season title in 1999, their first regular-season conference championship since 1960. He was named C-USA Coach of the Year, which he repeated in 2000. That year, the team came within a game of the 2000 College World Series.
Noble's Houston team won another Conference USA title in 2002 while setting a school record with 48 wins. In 2008, he won his third Conference USA championship.
After going 551-420 in 16 years at Houston and setting the school records for career and seasonal wins, he was let go by the college with three seasons and over $700,000 left on his contract, working out a financial settlement with the school. Houston had gone 27-31 and 25-32 in his last two years, their first back-to-back losing seasons since 1974-1975.
Sources include Houston bio, 1985 Baseball Guide, 1986 Baseball America Statistics Report, Houston Chronicle article on Noble's run at Houston ending