James Anthony Collins
- Bats Both, Throws Left
- Height 5' 9", Weight 165 lb.
- Debut April 18, 1931
- Final Game September 28, 1941
- Born March 30, 1904 in Altoona, PA USA
- Died April 15, 1970 in New Haven, NY USA
"Rickey always accused me of being the ringleader; I never could understand why he picked on me – unless it could have been because there was considerable truth in his allegations.” - Ripper Collins, to the New York Times, 1957
Ripper Collins was a core member and ringleader of the "Gas House Gang" with the St. Louis Cardinals. He led the National League in slugging percentage and home runs in 1934 as the club marched to a World Series triumph. In a nine-year career, Ripper hit .296/.360/.492 with 135 home runs.
Prior to his big league days, Collins won the Triple Crown in the Three-I League in 1928 with a .388 average, 19 homers and 101 RBI. In 1929, he led the International League with 38 home runs and 134 RBI, part of a Rochester Red Wings club that won 103 games and the pennant. In the prior couple of seasons, he had played briefly with Rochester after spending the bulk of the year in lower-level clubs. In 1930, Collins set the IL RBI record with 180 - this still remains the all-time league record. He also hit .376 (leading the league), slugged .684, scored 165, banged out a league-best 234 hits, delivered 40 homers and a league-high 19 triples.
Collins got the call to the bigs for the 1931, coming in hot with a .301/.350/.487 line as a part-timer. He slugged 21 home runs the following year, then batted an impressive .310/.363/.452 in 132 games in 1933. He broke out in 1934 along with the rest of the Cardinals, establishing a record for a switch-hitter in the NL with 369 total bases. He batted .333/.393/.615 while playing all 154 games, leading the league in slugging, OPS and tying Mel Ott for the lead in home runs with 35. In the World Series, he batted .367/.387/.400 with 3 RBI as the Cards set back the Detroit Tigers. Off the field, he was routinely among the merriment of the Gas House Gang. Along with Pepper Martin, Dizzy Dean and Dazzy Vance, he performed on St. Louis' KMOX as The Mississippi Mudcats. With Collins chief among them, members also took part in painting the walls of a busy hotel and ushering guests in hotels to the wrong rooms.
Ripper made his first of three consecutive All-Star Game appearances in 1935, batting .313/.385/.529 with 23 home runs and 122 RBI. With the rise of "The Big Cat" Johnny Mize in 1936, Ripper was soon on the move, joining the Chicago Cubs in 1937 as a return for hurler Lon Warneke. On June 29th, he failed to record a putout at first base as the Cubs topped the Cardinals, becoming the only man to play two such games in this fashion; previously doing so back on August 21, 1935 with the Cards. He was first baseman on the Cubs' 1938 pennant winners, seeing his last action with a 49-game ride in 1939.
After his big league time was up, Ripper continued to play in the Pacific Coast League and Eastern League. In 1944, he was named Minor League Player of the Year while player-manager with the Albany Senators of the Eastern League. At the age of 40, he might have been the oldest player ever to win the honor. He hit .396/~.485/.598 and led the league in doubles (40), average, slugging and OBP while stealing 14 bases. Collins also managed in the minors for a decade. He skippered the 1942-1946 Albany Senators, 1947-1948 San Diego Padres, 1949 Pawtucket Slaters, 1949-1950 Hartford Chiefs and 1961 San Antonio Missions. In 1951, he was elected to the International League Hall of Fame.
Collins did eventually get back to the majors as a Chicago Cubs coach from 1961 to 1963. This was during the College of Coaches experiment, and, while he did not get to manage the major league club, he did shuttle between assignments managing various Cubs minor league affiliates and a coaching position in the big leagues. He was scouting for the Cardinals when he died in 1970 at 66.
Sources: The International League: Year-by-Year Statistics by Marshall Wright, 1946 Baseball Guide, 1989 Sporting News Baseball Guide (though any Guide lists past MLPOTY award winners), Great Baseball Feats, Facts & Firsts by David Nemec and Baseball's 25 Greatest Teams by Lowell Reidenbaugh
- 1944 Minor League Player of the Year (Albany Senators, Eastern League)
- 3-time NL All-Star (1935-1937)
- NL Slugging Percentage Leader (1934)
- NL OPS Leader (1934)
- NL Total Bases Leader (1934)
- NL Home Runs Leader (1934)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 3 (1932, 1934 & 1935)
- 30-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1934)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 2 (1934 & 1935)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1934 & 1935)
- 200 Hits Seasons: 1 (1934)
- Won two World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals (1931 & 1934)
Year-by-Year Managerial Record
- Cort Vitty: "(The Ripper) James Anthony Collins", in Charles F. Faber, ed.: The 1934 St. Louis Cardinals: The World Champion Gas House Gang, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2014, pp. 57-61. ISBN 978-1-933599-731