Kevin Collins, the former Met infielder who was a key ingredient in the trade bringing the Mets 1969 World Series MVP Donn Clendenon and who also holds a distinction in the club’s uni-number history, passed away at his winter home in Naples, Fla. on Feb. 20 at age 69.
Collins was among the “Youth of America” class of young players assembled by the Mets in their formative years. Although a steady job in the big leagues would wind up being blocked by another of that group, Bud Harrelson, Collins bobbed between the Mets’ farm and the big-league club often enough between 1965 and 1969 to achieve a notable place in team history: He was the first Met to wear four different uniform numbers, a record that would be tied in the 1980s by Ed Lynch and surpassed a decade after that by Jeff McKnight.
As part of SABR’s book on the 1969 Mets, THE MIRACLE HAS LANDED, I interviewed Collins by phone and wrote a brief biography you can see published here. In our conversations Collins was a gregarious and funny man — when informed him of his place in Mets’ uni-number history he was so amused he told his wife as we discussed it. What emerged from my research was a story of a great teammate: When sent to the minors in 1969, instead of storming off he left a note in his emptied locker wishing luck to incoming replacement Ken Boswell; and when knocked cold in a collision at third base by a sliding Doug Rader in 1968, several teammates rushed to Collins’ aid including pitcher Don Cardwell, who initiated a bench-clearing brawl by socking Rader above the eye. After a subsequent trade made him a member of the 1970 Detroit Tigers, Collins was among the first big-leaguers to share a road-trip hotel room with a black player, Gates Brown.
More sad news from the afterlife: Tom Knight, a Brooklyn-based baseball historian and a fan of the MBTN project, passed away Feb. 17, according to this article in the New York Times. I knew Tom from his appearances as a master of ceremonies at countless Casey Stengel Chapter SABR meetings, and I was more than flattered when I discovered he’d penned an unsolicited and extremely positive review of the 2008 Mets by the Numbers book.
Fans and media around Metland this week are also mourning Shannon Forde, the club’s beloved media relations director, who passed away at the way-too-young age of 44.