September 13 – Happy Birthday Pat Collins

pat.collinsLearned something interesting when researching for stuff I could use to write a post about today’s Pinstripe Birthday Celebrant. The Yankees first started spending more money on player acquisition than any other team in baseball, back when Jacob Ruppert owned the team and employed Ed Barrow as the team’s de facto GM and Miller Huggins as field skipper.

Red Sox owner Harry Frazee became the first beneficiary (or should I say “victim”) of New York’s generosity, when he accepted lot’s of Yankee dollars for most of Boston’s starting pitching rotation, including a soon-to-be-ex-pitcher by the name of Ruth. Another team that saw a lot of Ruppert’s money come their way was the Saint Paul Saints, an American Association minor league team based in Minnesota’s capital city.

The two most notable players the Yankees got from the Saints were shortstop Mark Koenig and today’s birthday celebrant, catcher Pat Collins. A native of Sweet Springs, Missouri, Collins had been a big league backup catcher for the St. Louis Browns from 1919 through 1924, when he was released and signed with the Saints. He was not a good defensive receiver and was an exceptionally slow runner but his pretty decent hitting had kept him on the Browns roster for all that time.

Collins feasted on minor league pitching during the 1925 season, smacking 19 home runs and averaging .316. Meanwhile, during that same year, the Yankees had tried to replace their veteran backstop, Wally Schang with 26-year-old Benny Bengough. Neither Huggins or Barrow were pleased with Bengough’s offense so the Yankee GM gave the Saints $15,000 for Collins.

He did provide the offensive boost the Yankees hoped for during his two seasons as New York’s starting catcher, averaging right around .280 with an excellent on-base percentage. His problem remained defense and it was his poor overall glove work that convinced New York they needed to find his replacement. They gave Johnny Grabowski a shot at the job in 1928 and when he was injured in an off-season home fire, they went with a youngster named Bill Dickey who would remain a fixture behind the plate in Yankee Stadium for the next sixteen years.

Collins got sold to the Braves in December of 1928 and after appearing in just 11 games for Boston during the 1929 season, his big league career was over. He and his wife later operated a bar outside Kansas City and became owners of a minor league team. He was also convicted for evading about $4,000 worth of federal income tax in 1952. He died in 1960 at the age of 63.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention the “something interesting” thing I learned when doing my research on Pat Collins. Ed Barrow would end up spending more than $300,000 purchasing players from that Saint Paul Saints minor league team and among them all, only Koenig and to a lesser extent, Collins ever made any significant contributions to the Yankees. The fact that the keen-eyed New York scouting organization could be so right about most of its signings and acquisitions and so frequently wrong when it came to deals made with the Saints sort of defied explanation. Or did it? Come to find out, one of the co-owners of that Saints franchise, who made lot’s of money from those transactions was none other than Yankee manager, Miller Huggins.

Collins shares his birthday with this former Yankee center-fielder, another former Yankee back-up catcher and this one-time Yankee starting pitcher.

Year Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1926 NYY 102 373 290 41 83 11 3 7 35 3 2 73 57 .286 .433 .417 .850
1927 NYY 92 311 251 38 69 9 3 7 36 0 1 54 24 .275 .407 .418 .825
1928 NYY 70 174 136 18 30 5 0 6 14 0 0 35 16 .221 .380 .390 .770
1929 BSN 7 11 5 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 3 1 .000 .375 .000 .375
10 Yrs 543 1474 1204 146 306 46 6 33 168 4 5 235 202 .254 .378 .385 .762
SLB (6 yrs) 272 605 522 48 124 21 0 13 81 1 2 70 104 .238 .328 .352 .680
NYY (3 yrs) 264 858 677 97 182 25 6 20 85 3 3 162 97 .269 .413 .412 .825
BSN (1 yr) 7 11 5 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 3 1 .000 .375 .000 .375
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/19/2013.

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