February 26 – Happy Birthday Rip Collins

1920 was an historic year for our National Pastime. Major League Baseball was in the throes of scandal over the alleged involvement of several Chicago White Sox players in a concerted effort to lose the 1919 World Series against Cincinnati. Fans all over the country were turning away from the game in disgust. That wasn’t the case in the Big Apple thanks to the Yankees’ acquisition of Babe Ruth from Boston in January of 1920. In his first season with New York, Ruth stunned the nation by hitting the then unbelievable total of 54 home runs. That would be like someone hitting 180 home runs during the 2010 season, without the help of any pharmaceuticals.

Boston Red Sox owner, Harry Frazee was quickly becoming the most hated man in Beantown for having traded Ruth. He tried to deflect that hate by insisting that Ruth could not be satisfied and had been become an incorrigible Red Sox, impossible for then Red Sox skipper, Ed Barrow to control. A big part of Frazee’s defense of the trade seemed to also be that if he had kept Ruth, the young slugger’s immoral behavior would eventually poison the rest of Boston’s roster.

It proved to be a futile excuse for Frazee, who’s name when mentioned still to this day evokes four-letter word responses in most Beantown “bahs.” But Ruth’s first Yankee Manager, Miller Huggins found out that Frazee’s excuse contained more than a hint of truth. From the moment the Babe came to New York, Huggins found it impossible to control the slugging wild man off the field. The manager knew he couldn’t trade Ruth so he did the next best thing. He started getting rid of the Yankee teammates that Ruth enjoyed partying with. Today’s Beantown Baseball Birthday celebrant was one of them. In December of 1921, Rip Collins, who had become one of the Bambino’s favorite Yankee drinking and gambling buddies was made part of a seven player swap with the Red Sox.

Collins was a young, whiskey drinking rookie from Texas. He was a former Texas Aggie football player who was as tough as they come. Like Ruth, 1920 was Collins’ first year in New York and he had put together a fourteen-victory rookie season. The following year, Ruth hit 59 bombs and the Yankees won the first AL Pennant in their illustrious history. Collins went 11-5 in his sophomore season and although he had a tendency to walk too many hitters, it looked as if he was in the infant stages of what promised to be a long and successful career with New York. But as mentioned earlier, Yankee manager Miller Huggins had different ideas. After his trade to the Red Sox, Collins went 14-7 during his one season in Beantown but the same control issues that he had experienced as a Yankee followed him to Boston as he led the AL in bases-on-balls. Collins then spent the next five years in Detroit pitching for the Tigers. He then pitched in Canada in 1928 and then signed with the Browns, where he finished his big league career in 1931. Lifetime, Collins was 108-82. After he left baseball he began a career in law enforcement which included a job as a Texas Ranger. He died in Texas in May of 1968 at the age of 72.

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