baseball, 1904-06

inducted February 18, 2006

"Eddie Collins was one of the most accomplished all-around players ever to play the game," Jack Kavanaugh wrote of the baseball Hall of Famer. "They called Collins `Cocky' not because he was arrogant, but because he was filled with confidence based on ability."

Evidence of that ability first surfaced on the playing fields of Columbia University. A resident of Millerton, N.Y., Collins entered Columbia in 1903, the year of the first World Series. He soon demonstrated superior athletic skills.

Collins went out for football soon after coming to Morningside Heights, and although standing only 5-foot-9, he quickly became the starting quarterback. He also became a starter in baseball, as a slick-fielding shortstop who could hit and run.

Football was a dangerous sport then. Players wore little protective padding, and the rules permitted far more contact than they do today. Serious injuries were common and several players lost their lives. In reaction, President Theodore Roosevelt ordered the practitioners of college football to either clean up the game -- or drop it.

Columbia chose the latter course, disbanding the team following the 1905 season and depriving Collins of his final year on the gridiron. He also lost out on his senior baseball season, a result of his own actions.

Collins joined a semi-pro team in the summer of 1906, playing under the moniker "Eddie Sullivan". The practice was not unusual among college players and he probably would have gotten away with it if his playing hadn't attracted the attention of the Philadelphia Athletics. They signed him to a contract - the major league draft was about 60 years away - and he actually got into six games before returning to Columbia for his senior year.

Once his professional playing was discovered, Collins was declared ineligible for his senior season. However, he was allowed to stay on as a coach while he completed his degree, one of the few undergraduate coaches the Lions have ever had.

Following his 1907 graduation, Collins returned to the Athletics and wasted little time breaking into the starting lineup. In 1909, just three years after playing college ball, the now-second baseman hit .347, scored 104 runs and stole 67 bases.

Collins stayed with Philadelphia through the 1914 season. A member of the "$100,000 infield", he played in four World Series, winning three. In 1914, he batted .344, drove in 85 runs, scored 122, and stole 58 bases. He was named the American League Most Valuable Player.

Deep in debt, the Athletics sold him to the Chicago White Sox for $50,000 after the 1914 season, and he remained with them through the 1926 campaign. He returned to the Athletics as a player-coach from 1927 to 1930, when he retired as a player.

Collins moved into baseball administration as general manager of the Boston Red Sox. He spent many years in Boston - on one scouting trip for the Sox, he discovered future Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr - before passing away in 1951 at the age of 63.

The former Columbia star played 25 seasons in the major leagues, a 20th century record for position players. He batted .340 or better for 10 seasons and finished with 3311 hits and a .333 average. He still holds the major league records for putouts, assists and total chances by a second baseman and his 744 stolen bases are fourth all-time. Collins is considered by many the finest second baseman in major league history.