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Cardinals of Yore: Ripper Collins

January 12, 2009

Cardinals of Yore: Ripper Collins

RippercollinsHe weighed 165 pounds soaking wet and stood only about five-foot-nine, but that didn't stop Ripper Collins from becoming one of the most feared power hitters in the National League during the 1930s.

A Pennsylvania native, Collins planned on a career as a coal miner in his home state until a labor strike left him looking for other work. He tried out to be a professional baseball player with his newfound free time and not only found a job -- he proceeded to tear up the minors. In 1928 Collins hit .388 with 19 homers in the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League before hitting 38 homers in the International League in 1929. He hit .376 in 1930 and set an International League record that still stands today - 180 RBIs in a season - before making his debut with St. Louis in 1931 at the relatively advanced age of 27.

For the 1934 World Series champions, Collins hit .333 with 35 homers and 128 RBIs. He racked up 369 total bases -- still the record for a switch hitter in the National League -- and finished sixth in the MVP balloting behind winning teammate Dizzy Dean. He was one of only two Cardinals (OF Jack Rothrock was the other) to play all 154 games that season, racking up 600 at bats and leading his team in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, RBIs, runs, homers, hits and walks. He tied for first with Joe Medwick in doubles.

Collins played six seasons for the Cardinals, making the All-Star game in three of them, before winding down his major league career with two years as a Cub and one as a Pirate. But, after his late start, The Ripper wasn't ready to hang up his spikes just yet.

In 1940, he was named the Eastern League's player of the year after hitting .396 and leading the circuit in batting average and doubles. He also managed in the minors for several years after his major league days were over.