Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Quartet of Hall of Famers Debut on September 17th Part I

On this day in Baseball History September 17: A number of future Hall of Famers made their Major League debuts on September 17th. Here we go

Eddie Collins September 17, 1906

Playing as "Sullivan", Collins made his debut at Shortstop for the Philadelphia Athletics against the Chicago White Sox in Chicago. Why did he play under an alias? The article Eddie Collins by Paul Mittermeyer from the SABR Baseball Biography Project sheds some light:
In the summer of 1906, Eddie played for a succession of semipro clubs--Plattsburgh, Rutland, and Rockville--before his professional career was discovered, thus invalidating his senior year eligibility at Columbia. The summer was not to be a total loss, however. While honeymooning, Andy Coakley, pitcher with the Philadelphia A's, happened to see Collins playing for Rutland. Coakley sent word of the youngster to Connie Mack, who dispatched backup catcher Jimmy Byrnes to develop an in-depth scouting report. When Byrnes confirmed the pitcher's observations, Mack signed Collins to a 1907 contract, but not before Collins obtained a written promise that Mack would not send him to the minor leagues without his consent. John McGraw, manager of the New York Giants, had been aware of the budding prospect but declined to offer him a trial. 

At Connie Mack's suggestion, Collins made his major league debut under the alias of Eddie T. Sullivan on September 17, 1906, at Chicago's South Side Park. He played that first game at shortstop behind Rube Waddell, who completely subdued Eddie in batting practice. Nonetheless, "Sullivan" managed to reach Chicago's Big Ed Walsh for a bunt single in his first-ever at-bat. Six fielding chances were executed flawlessly that day, though Eddie's tenure at short was not to last. 

Collins was back in class at Columbia shortly after the Mackmen completed their Western tour, having played six games with the Athletics. 
Here is the boxscore for the September 17, 1906 game between the Philadelphia Athletics vs. the Chicago White Sox from the September 18, 1906 edition of the New York Times:


Collins would graduate from Columbia University and play for a total of twenty-five seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics and the Chicago White Sox retiring in 1930. Collins would be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939 with 77.7% of the vote (213/274 ballots).

- Click here to access Eddie Collins' career statistics from Baseball Reference.com
- Click here to access the Eddie Collins page from the National Baseball Hall of Fame

Stan Musial September 17, 1941

The player that one day would be knows as "The Man" made his professional debut in Right-field with the St. Louis Cardinals on September 17, 1941 against the Boston Braves in the second game of a doubleheader at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis. The article Stan Musial by Jan Finkel from the SABR Baseball Biography Project describes the effect Musial's debut had on the Cardinals:
Clearly ready for the big leagues, he made his debut with the Cardinals on September 17, getting his first hit, a double, as St. Louis swept a doubleheader from Boston, 6-1 and 3-2. In 12 games he hit .426, nailed his first home run, a two-run shot off Pittsburgh's Rip Sewell at Forbes Field in the second game of a doubleheader on September 23, and as a bonus struck out just once in 47 at-bats. In spite of Musial's contributions, the Cardinals came up 2.5 games short of the pennant-winning Dodgers in a wild finish to a close race.

Given Musial's performance, it is difficult to see why the Cardinals waited until mid-September to bring him up. Talking to Donald Honig for Baseball When the Grass Was Real, Johnny Mize provided a cynical explanation for the delay:

"In '41 [Enos] Slaughter collided with Terry Moore, and Slaughter broke his shoulder. Here we're fighting the Dodgers for a pennant. [Branch] Rickey said we didn't have anybody in the minor leagues to help us. Then in September he brings up Musial. Why didn't he bring Musial up earlier? That's what all the players wanted to know. We might have gone ahead and won the pennant. I'll tell you what the talk used to be about Rickey: Stay in the pennant race until the last week of the season, and then get beat. I heard some talk to the effect that that was what he preferred. That way he drew the crowds all year, and then later on the players couldn't come in for the big raise for winning the pennant and maybe the World Series. I don't know if it's true or not, but that was the talk."
Here is the boxscore for the second game of the September 17, 1941 doubleheader between the Boston Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals from the September 18, 1941 edition of the New York Times:


Musial never looked back and put in a 22-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals. Stan Musial would retire after the 1963 season and would be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969 with 93.2% of the vote (317/340 ballots).

- Click here to access Stan Musial's career statistics from Baseball Reference.com
- Click here to access the Stan Musial page from the National Baseball Hall of Fame

My next post will focus on the other two future Hall of Famers that would make their debut on September 17th.

Until Then Keep Playing Ball,
Baseball Sisco
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