Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Cards #431, Dave Collins (Article 80)
by Paul Semendinger
(Continuing a series…)
Even as a kid growing up, I knew that some roster decisions didn’t make sense.
I thought exactly that when the Yankees acquired Dave Collins before the 1982 season.
By 1982, I was already in the mindset that the Yankees should always get baseball’s best players. This was how they operated. If a great player was out there, he was linked to the Yankees. And often he became a Yankee. This was how they operated…
and others were brought in to wear pinstripes in my youth.
After the Yankees lost the 1981 World Series (I cried that night), they allowed Reggie Jackson to leave via free agency and they announced that the 1982 Yankees would be a team built, not around power, but around speed.
The idea seemed absurd.
And it was.
Yankees Winning Percentages: By-Year (At The Beginning of My Fandom)
1977 – .617
1978 – .613
1979 – .556
1980 – .636
1981 – .551*
1982 – .488
* A .607 pre-strike first half earned them a playoff seed
The first Yankees losing season I ever encountered was that 1982 season.
One of the speedy players the Yankees brought in for that season was Dave Collins.
I knew my baseball. I studied baseball. I lived baseball. But when the Yankees acquired Dave Collins, I asked, “Who?”
I further heard that he was going to play first base. “First base?” I wondered.
I ran to my baseball cards (which were my baseball-reference.com of the times) and saw that on every card Collins was listed as an outfielder.
I guess I assumed that the Yankees knew what they were doing.
I rooted for Dave Collins. (He was a Yankee after all.) I wanted him to do well.
He didn’t do well.
In his one season as a Yankee, he batted .253.* He hit for no power (3 homers), he didn’t drive in runs (25 in total) and he didn’t really show that he was fast.
In 1982, Dave Collins had just 21 stolen base attempts. He made it safely in only 13 of them.
It wasn’t an inspiring season.
*I had remembered Collins hitting lower than .253, and research basically proved my memory correct. Heading into his season’s last day, Collins was batting .248. He went 3-for-5 in that game to raise his season’s average over .250.
Dave Collins reached the Major Leagues in 1975 with the California Angels. He also played for the Seattle Mariners and the Cincinnati Reds before becoming a Yankee as a free agent.
From 1975 to 1981, his entire career before playing in New York, Dave Collins had played first base a grand total of ten games (all in 1979 with the Reds).
In 1982, the Yankees played him at first base 52 times. (Some things just don’t make sense.)
After the 1982 season, Dave Collins was traded in the package that included Fred McGriff to the Blue Jays for Dale Murray.
Dale Murray was another player that I didn’t understand the Yankees acquiring. That, though, is another story.
To his credit, Dave Collins was a much better player than I assumed based on his one year as a Yankee.
He played 16 years in the big leagues. He played in 1,701 games and had a lifetime batting average of .272. He hung around (playing for the Blue Jays, A’s, Tigers, Reds, and Cardinals) through the 1990 season.
Collins didn’t steal bases as a Yankee, but he eclipsed 20 stolen bases in a season nine times in his career. After leaving the Yankees he stole 60 bases in 1984 with the Blue Jays.
Dave Collins didn’t make it as a first baseman in New York, but the void there was soon filled by a lefty batter from the minor leagues named Don Mattingly.