Until Pie Traynor came along in the 1920s, Jimmy Collins was universally considered baseball’s greatest third baseman. Playing at the turn of the century, when the bunt was a big part of the game, Collins was the best at fielding them. His 601 chances accepted at 3B in 1899 remain a National League record. He led his league’s third basemen in putouts five times, assists four times, double plays twice, and still stands second all-time in career putouts at 3B.
Collins was also outstanding at the plate. He topped the .300 mark five times, with a high of .346 for Boston (NL) in 1897. In 1898, he won the NL home run crown with 15, drove in well over 100 runs for the second consecutive season, and scored more than 100 runs for the third of four times.
Collins was player-manager of the Red Sox in the American League‘s first six seasons, leading Boston to a victory over Pittsburgh in the initial World Series in 1903. The Red Sox repeated in 1904, but interleague feuding canceled the WS. Relieved of the managerial reins in 1907, Collins was traded to the Athletics, and he left the majors after batting .217 in 1908. He played and managed in the minors through 1911 before retiring to his native Buffalo. Wiped out by the Depression, he became a Buffalo parks employee. His 1945 election to the Hall of Fame preceded Traynor’s by three years, though Traynor had been eligible before Collins’s induction.