"For a man who could do anything – hit, field, run bases and play inside and brainy baseball – Collins stands at the top." – Ty Cobb
Only until recent years did a regular (Nolan Ryan) come along and surpass Eddie Collins for the most seasons played. Collins donned a big league uniform for twenty-five years and compiled a lifetime bating average of .333. His entire life was baseball and his confidence in his abilities allowed him to excel at all levels.
This story begins on May 2, 1887 in the small hamlet of Millertown, NY where Edward Trowbridge Collins was born. The youngster of Irish-English decent graduated from Washington Irving School in Westchester County's Tarrytown, NY in 1903 and, at the age of sixteen, enrolled at Columbia University. The 5' 9", 175 pound star football quarterback also made their varsity baseball team as a freshman. During the summers, he subsidized his tuition by joining a local semi-pro baseball nine until he was recommended by big league pitcher Andy Coakley following his junior year.
In an effort to retain his college eligibility, Eddie signed a contract under the pseudonym of "Eddie Sullivan" while accompanying Philadelphia on a Western trip in the summer of 1906. His attempt to disguise his identity (common practice at the time) was exposed and Collins was stripped of his amateur status and his senior year title of team captain. The Columbia team, in an unprecedented move, appointed him coach until his graduation in 1907 while earning a Bachelor of Arts degree. A potential law career was abandoned in lieu of a promising baseball career.
Four games for Newark of the Eastern League was the only minor league experience he received while rejoining the Athletics for the balance of the 1907 campaign.
Originally selected as a third baseman with an occasional cameo at shortstop, the right –handed, graceful fielding speedster was transformed into a platooning second baseman by the 1908 season. Considered a superlative glove man, he went on to lead the league nine times at his adopted position. Collins exploded into the 1909 lineup, winning the pivot position over Danny Murphy and didn't disappoint anyone with a .346 batting average fueled by 198 hits. Hitting from the left side of the plate, Collins would become familiar with the .300 mark by accomplishing the feat eighteen times in his career.
Although never earning a batting title in the shadow of the omnipotent Ty Cobb for so many years, Collins' 3,312 hits is eighth all-time and his 744 stolen bases ranks sixth. His four American League stolen base titles are highlighted by a league leading 81 thefts in 1910. His "claim to fame" is stealing six bases in one game, twice this happened in 1912, eleven days apart. In 1911, as with the next, the A's won the American League championship and became World Series victors over the Cubs in the former by pacing his team with a .429 series average. Mack assembled his $100,000 infield in 1911 by installing John "Stuffy" McInnis at first base, Collins at second, Jack Barry at short and Frank "Home Run" Baker in the hot corner. This amount was not reflective of their cumulative salaries, rather how much money Mack had spent to put the harmonious infield together. Pennants followed in 1913 and 1914 and Collins was awarded the Chalmers Award (MVP) behind a .344 batting rampage, 181 hits and 122 runs scored.
Mack's fear of the Federal League looting of the star players motivated him to sell off his big guns before the competition took shape in 1915. On December 8, 1914 the Chicago White Sox purchased Collins for $50,000, a transaction that American League President Ban Johnson personally presided over. Collins' leverage was at an all-time high and he was able to secure a $15,000/five-year deal, a fortune compared to his teammates. His aggressive style of play, sway of his shoulders when walking and dominant personality earned him the approving moniker of "Cocky" amongst his peers. The move to Chicago didn't dampen his statistics. Although, by 1917, his batting average dipped to .289 with the White Sox winning the World Series over the Giants, Collins' daring dash (outdistancing Heine Zimmerman to home plate in Game Six), clinched victory for the Sox. His 1918 season was curtailed to 97 games by injuries and enlistment into the Marines, but World War I settled before he was scheduled to ship overseas.
Eight of his teammates, later dubbed the Black Sox, conspired to throw the World Series of 1919, which was a harsh blow to the innocent and "honest" Collins. Several of those who were eventually banned from baseball were resentful of Collins' high salary and refined education. Known as a team player, Eddie was an avid bunter and shrewd strategist, making a brilliant transition from the Dead Ball Era into the Lively Ball times. His personal statistics continued to reach new plateaus, a career-high .360 batting average at age 36 in 1923 showed no sign of erosion to his abilities. Before each at bat, Collins would perform an odd superstitious ritual of removing his gum from his mouth and placing it on the button on the top of his cap.
Charles Comiskey awarded him with the player/manager duties in 1925 and 1926, which a two year fifth place finish brought about his overall release on November 11, 1926. Former teammate Ray Schalk briefly succeeded him at the post through 1928 mid-season. Within a month of leaving the Sox, Connie Mack reunited him with the Athletics. Between 1928 and 1930, his duties were principally relegated to pinch-hitter and infield coach (an adept sign-stealer). His importance to the new generation of championship A's was recognized with full World Series shares from 1929 through 1931. The uniform (#31) was worn by Eddie the last two seasons.
The Yankees offered the highly desirable managerial reigns to Collins after the 1929 death of Miller Huggins but he declined because Connie Mack assured him successor rights to the A's upon his probable retirement. Foreseeing little chance of this happening, Collins accepted (with Mack's blessing) the titles of vice president, treasurer and business manager from Boston Red Sox Owner Tom Yawkey.
The prospect Bosox boss was a former alumnus of Irving High School where he won the Edward T. Collins Scholar-Athlete Award. Ty Cobb introduced the two who became fast friends and hunting buddies. Yawkey's impressive 50,000 acre South Carolina estate became their holiday retreat. Collins relocated his family to 455 Concord Road, Weston, Massachusetts. The Collins clan consisted of the former Mabel Harriet Doane, who he married on November 3, 1910, Edward T., Jr. (born November 23, 1916 in Lansdowne, PA), and Reverend Paul Doane. Edward Jr. (died November 2, 2000 in Kennett Square, PA) was a substitute outfielder for the A's in 1939, 1941-42 and married the daughter of Hall of Famer Herb Pennock. Mabel later suffered through a long illness and died in 1943. The marriage to his second wife, the former Mrs. Emily Jane Mann Hall, was performed by Collins' younger son (then of Troy, NY) in 1945.
Eddie returned the Red Sox to respectability, despite having to contend with the Yankees machine year after year, and was able to capture the 1946 American League championship flag. In a rare scouting trip to the West Coast, Collins is credited with bird dogging the talents of future Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr. His administrative position was safe and sound until his demise. In 1948, the protracted duties of general manager were entrusted to future Hall of Famer Joe Cronin.
The Baseball Writers Association of America cast 213 ballots in his favor for election into the Hall of Fame on January 24, 1939. He garnered considerable voting support in the three previous years. The inaugural induction ceremonies coincided with the baseball's centennial and enshrined the eleven living members on June 12, 1939. This proved to be the only Cooperstown enshrinement attended by Collins. A series of heart attacks beginning on March 10, 1951, resulting in a cerebral hemorrhage, claimed the life of Collins two weeks later on March 25. The 63-year-old passed away at Peter Bent Hospital in Boston and was laid to rest at Linwood Cemetery in his adopted home town.
The oversized, sweeping and looping manuscript of Eddie Collins generally can be found in two different forms. The proper name with middle initial often was employed on legal and official documents such as contracts and checks. More common was his usage of the more familiar "Eddie" found on just about everything else. The cursive capital "E", speedily took shape with the thin-lined, initial stroke variably introducing the double squiggled single stroke. Without lifting the pen throughout the balance of his given name, two identical "d"s lined up next to each other with heavily shaded loops creating "e" like formations into the next two lower case characters. All of his small letters maintain ¾-size in relation to his capitalization.
The most individualized characteristic in his signature is the elaborate upper case "C". Picture the number eight on its side above a semi-oval that envelopes the "o" which is the product of two conjoined "e" shapes. Again with the "e" loops are two fattened similar "l"s that proceed a retraced "i" with "accent grave" (c'est français) dashed punctuation. Two repeated "i"s follow suit which act as the garland-style "n".
In his post playing career, Eddie would overindulge into the elevated "s", which yet again was an enlarged "e" that tend to hook slightly to the left upon its terminal stroke. In effect, this oversized finishing stroke provided balance to this forceful, heavily-shaded baseline-wandering autograph. His authoritarian signature remained consistent even in his final year.
Collins, especially as an administrator, was a prolific signer. His right-handed signature, oozing with confidence, can be found on numerous forms of Red Sox communications including uniform player contracts ($400), downsize transfer agreements ($500) and typewritten correspondence on Red Sox letterhead ($800). Handwritten letters are far more in demand, especially the 1915 example that sold in a 2003 Mastronet auction for $3500. Index cards are uncommon ($800) but I do see more government postcards ($900) often signed vertically with the salutation "yours". I yearn for the day I can place a personal cancelled check ($2500-$3000) into my collection. Hobby experts estimate that only five of these may exist throughout the hobby. Albertype Hall of Fame black and white plaque postcards (1947-52) are an extremely rare find and one can expect to shell out at least $4000.
Equally rare and dangerous, is the notorious single-signed baseball ($4000 and up). I've seen scores of forgeries, most of which are poor labored attempts on sanded-down contemporary balls with reapplied hand stamps. These fictitious "jokes" have the bright red stitching, poor ink curation into the leather, a fresh coat of glazing and often have red numerical numbering and lettering registration by a "rubber stamp" authentication firm.
Also, beware of Philadelphia A's and Hall of Fame induction multi-signed baseballs of the same ilk. Sepia-toned 4 x 6 posed shots ($1000) by George Burke on linen photographic paper stock are almost certain to offer bold autographs. Signed cards ($1000 minimum) would be a novelty mainly because it was not fashionable to get a slender T-card penned by the collectors of the era. Album pages with multiple signatures ($250 & up)) and Collins' (which often takes up a lot of real estate) are the most affordable route to navigate.
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