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Joseph Edward Collins
born Joseph Edward Kollonige
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 0", Weight 185 lb.
- Debut September 25, 1948
- Final Game September 29, 1957
- Born December 3, 1922 in Scranton, PA USA
- Died August 30, 1989 in Union, NJ USA
As a sixteen-year-old in 1939, Joe Collins was invited to a workout with the Cleveland Indians Wilkes-Barre farm club, but instead practiced that day with the visiting Binghamton team, a New York Yankees farm club. Binghamton signed Joe to a Class D contract and he remained with the organization until 1957, when he retired.
Young Joe would get a slight taste of pro ball in 1939 appearing in 14 games with both the Easton Yankees and also the Butler Yankees. In 1940 he got into it full swing, appearing in 99 games with the Butler Yankees getting 122 base hits, which included 9 homers for the 17-year-old, in 381 plate appearances for a .320 hitting average.
He spent three more seasons in the minors, doing well, before entering the Naval Air Corps late in 1943, serving in World War II and returning in time for the 1946 season. Joe had not lost his touch and had two good years, one in 1947, when he hit 23 homers and had a .316 average between the Newark Bears and the Birmingham Barons, and in 1948 he hit 23 home runs and batted .317 for Newark and the Kansas City Blues.
This led to a late-season call by the Yankees and Joe got his first look at the majors in 1948, getting into five games with one hit in five trips. He spent 1949 with the Kansas City Blues, hit .319 and have 20 round-trippers and again got a late-season look by the Yankees, where he appeared in seven games. He would never go back to the minors again.
Collins would become a .256 career hitter, hitting 86 home runs, including a career-high 18 in 1952. A great low-ball pull hitter, Joe was tough in the clutch. He used a variety of batting stances and feasted on Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox pitching. He was the Yankees' regular first baseman from 1952 through 1954 and he hit a titanic 475-foot shot into the upper deck at Yankee Stadium in a 1952 game against the Indians. A batsman with a good eye who never struck out a lot, he finished his career with a very respectable .350 OBP.
Joe hit four World Series roundtrippers that all led to Yankees victories, including the pair he hit in a 6-5 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game One of the 1955 World Series. He also homered in the second game of the 1951 Fall Classic against the San Francisco Giants' Larry Jansen and went deep in the opening game of the of the 1953 World Series against the Dodgers to break a 5-5 deadlock in the seventh inning.
Collins also gave Yankees fans a scare to remember when he lost Jackie Robinson's pop fly in the Ebbets Field sun, which Billy Martin recovered to catch in a famous game-saving play in the seventh game of the 1952 World Series.
In spring training of 1958 the Yanks sold Joe's contract to the Philadelphia Phillies for $20,000. The man Casey Stengel called "my meal ticket" immediately announced his retirement because he wanted to be remembered as a Yankee. At the time of his retirement, the 715 games he had played at first base were second to Lou Gehrig's in Yankee history.
Joe was in public relations for People's Express Trucking in Newark, NJ and also represented the Union Center National Bank in Union, NJ. Shortly before his death on August 30, 1989, at age 66 in Union, he was honored for his many years of community service in the Newark area and a local ball field was named in his honor.