James “Ripper” Collins – The Offense behind the Gashouse Gang

James Anthony “Ripper” Collins (March 30, 1904 – April 15, 1970) was a Major League Baseball first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, and Pittsburgh Pirates.

Born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, he grew up in nearby Nanty Glo, where he was a standout in sandlot baseball in his youth. Collins started his professional baseball career in 1923. He played in various minor leagues for eight seasons until 1930, when he hit .376 with 40 home runs for the Rochester Red Wings of the International League. His 180 runs batted in set an IL record.

For that performance, Collins was called up to the majors. As a member of the Gashouse Gang Cardinals teams, Collins had a breakout season in 1934 with 35 home runs (a league-leading total), 128 runs batted in, and a .333 batting average. He played in all 154 games and produced a .615 SLG%, 1.008 OPS, 369 Total bases and led the league in each of those categories. He also hit .367 in the World Series, which the Cardinals won in seven games.

Collins is the only first baseman to have twice recorded no putouts in a nine-inning game – once for the Cardinals in 1935, and again for the Cubs in 1937. Between his time with the Cubs and the Pirates, Collins spent two years with the Los Angeles Angels, and played in 346 games during that time.

Collins played in the Pacific Coast League and Eastern League after his major league career was over. In 1944, he was named Minor League Player of the Year while with Albany of the Eastern League. That season – at the age of 40 – he managed to hit .396 with a league-leading 40 doubles.

“One of the most popular members of the Cardinals’ famed ‘Gas House Gang’ teams of the early 1930s, James ‘Ripper’ Collins spent eight long years in the minor leagues before he finally arrived in St. Louis in 1931. Once he did, however, Collins quickly established himself as one of the team’s most potent batsmen, rivaling Joe Medwick during his six seasons in St. Louis, the switch-hitting Collins batted over .300 four times, led the Cardinals in home runs three times, and topped them in RBIs twice. In helping St. Louis win two world championships, Collins also earned All-Star honors twice and one top-ten finish in the National League Most Valuable Player voting.” – Author Robert W. Cohen in The 50 Greatest Players in St. Louis Cardinals History (Scarecrow Press, August 22, 2013, “No. 41 Ripper Collins”, Page 283)