Millerton’s Eddie Collins: The Hall-of-Famer with academic distinction
Jim Mackin Photo submitted

Millerton’s Eddie Collins: The Hall-of-Famer with academic distinction

From Further Afield

Baseball is back. The delay from the contract talks between owners and players is another one for the books. Starting the season a few weeks late is like a “rain delay” in a game between the Yankees and Boston. No one is leaving the stadium; America’s pastime is intact. Before the crack of the bat is heard when the season begins in mid-April, some local baseball lore is offered here for the enjoyment of fans and readers.

The baseball great Eddie Collins was born in Millerton and lived in the house on Main Street that is now the Millerton Inn restaurant and hotel at 53 Main St.

Some baseball writers consider Eddie Collins the greatest second baseman of all time. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall-of-Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in only its fourth year of 1939. He was inducted that year along with George Sisler, Al Spaulding and Lou Gehrig.

Sisler and Spaulding along with Charlie Gehringer, Larry MacPhail and Barry Larkin all attended the University of Michigan.

Gehrig along with Collins, John Montgomery Ward, Walter O’Malley and Sandy Koufax all attended Columbia University. Thus, Columbia and the University of Michigan — until 2021 — are the institutions of higher learning that can claim association with the most players in the Baseball Hall of Fame, namely five each.

Collins graduated from Columbia’s traditional four-year undergraduate program. Gehrig and O’Malley attended Columbia but did not graduate. O’Malley (damn his eternal soul, say older Brooklynites, for sending the Dodgers to Los Angeles) attended Columbia Law School but switched to Fordham Law School.

Ward, a player-manager in the latter part of the 19th century, went to Penn State at age 13 but was kicked out for an infraction and later graduated from Columbia Law School.

Koufax took classes at Columbia in his rookie season of 1955 when he pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Jacob Ruppert Jr., who was the owner of the New York Yankees and acquired Babe Ruth from Boston, attended Columbia Grammar School and was accepted into Columbia, but went into the family brewery business instead. 

Collins had very impressive statistics of 745 stolen bases, 3,315 hits, and a .333 lifetime batting average. He is the only non-Yankee to be part of the same team winning five or more World Series. He is the only player to play on two teams for at least 12 seasons each. He is the only player to steal six bases in two separate games. His 516 sacrifice bunts is still the major league record.

The tie between Columbia and University of Michigan for the most students in the Baseball Hall of Fame was usurped in 2021 when the New York Yankee’s Derek Jeter, who attended the University of Michigan but did not graduate, was inducted.

Michigan’s six baseball Hall-of-Famers now trumps the five of Columbia University.

Notwithstanding this fact, the records of Eddie Collins continue to honor him and his hometown of Millerton.

 

Author and historian Jim Mackin is president of the Friends of Taconic State Park, which operates the Copake Iron Works Historic Site, one of the most intact examples of 19th century industrial iron making in the Northeast. Jim is also a New York City historian, co-leader of the Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group and author of 2020’s highly acclaimed “Notable New Yorkers of Manhattan’s Upper West Side: Bloomingdale — Morningside Heights” (Fordham University Press).

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