A baseball card mystery: Where’s Dave Collins?

Last week, I was watching Hawaii Five-O when someone mentioned the name of the victim on the airplane as being “Dave Collins.” That’s a name that means something to baseball fans, particularly me.

image

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Dave Collins was one of my favorite players. Though he was mostly a journeyman who bounced around with the Angels, Mariners, Reds, Yankees, Blue Jays, A’s and Tigers, he was a fun player to watch. He was a switch-hitter with speed who played the game hellbent for leather, hustling with all the ferocity of a Pete Rose.

He also seemed to be a rarity: a white player who could run fast. As a young baseball fan, I’d been led to believe that black players were faster than white players. For the most part, or so it seemed, white guys couldn’t run—they had “white man’s disease”—but Collins was the exception.

Collins was not a star, but at his peak, he was a good player. In 1979, he batted .318, compiled a .364 on-base percentage, covered tons of ground in left field, and even received a vote for National League MVP. In 1980, he again reached base 36 per cent of the time, batted .303 and stole a career high 79 bases.

A few years back, I decided to try to put together a page of Dave Collins baseball cards. One of the cards, from the 1977 Topps set, didn’t look right. I compared it to the other photographs of Collins. I said to myself, “That’s not Collins. It doesn’t look anything like him.”

While Collins did wear glasses, he didn’t have curly blond hair. So unless he had decided to try some kind of weird experimental perm in 1976, this just can’t be him. It has to be another player. Topps has made these mistakes from time to time, so it’s certainly not unprecedented for the wrong player to be identified on a card.

Complicating matters is the fact that the player on this card is wearing an airbrushed cap and windbreaker. The Mariners did not yet exist when Topps took this photograph. Collins played for the California Angels in 1976, so it must be someone else from the ‘76 Angels.

So that’s our mystery for the week. Who is this curly-haired player impersonating Collins on his 1977 card?

Print Friendly
 Share on Facebook3Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Google+0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone
« Previous: Cespedes signs with the A’s
Next: 5,000 days since bizarre ending to Rockies-Angels game »

Comments

  1. C said...

    I think it is him.  It does look like his face, and those are the huge, goofy glasses I remember.

    My guess is that the hair is also airbrushed in.  Look at it.  It doesn’t look quite right, especially around the ear, though it’s hard to say since the quality of the photo is so poor.

  2. Red Nichols said...

    I think I remember what Collins looked like.  Yes, he wore glasses but don’t remember these giant lenses.  And didn’t he have dark hair??

  3. Bob said...

    Check out the first card shown on this site:
    http://post22baseball.com/Alumni/collins.htm

    Glasses are the same, jawline is the same.  Looks like the same guy to me.  The blonde locks on the card above look like a failed “Sun-in” experiment he tried while with the Angels.  You can see that the hair is much darker underneath the blonde.

  4. salvo said...

    I think it’s Collins… those are the exact glasses worn on cards with the Blue Jays and Reds; he has a strong chin and a quite sharp nose, both of which are evident on other cards.

    Also, the year this picture was taken—-probably 1976—-was just about the apex of the weird ‘70s perm thing: Randy Jones, John Denny, Don Sutton, just to name a few off the top of my head, were among probably a couple hundred ballplayers to sport the perm during the ‘70s, and it wouldn’t be unthinkable that a few of these guys would likewise mess around with some coloring.

    THAT SAID… one fellow on the 1976 Angels (the player in the airbrushed card appears to be wearing an Angels’ jacket) who did have lighter, curly hair, a sharp nose, and a strong chin—-a chin which also seems to have a subtle cleft in it, which this card does but other views of Collins don’t seem to have—-is Mike Overy.

    I don’t know if Overy wore glasses, but if you click to this web site, Overy is No. 17 on the “birthdays” slide show, and that photo at least resembles the individual shown in this baseball card…

    http://www.baseball-birthdays.com/archives/January/27/0127index.html

  5. Jim G. said...

    Here’s an interesting blog that explores variations with the O-Pee-Chee sets (from Canada). They used an entirely different picture, albeit still airbrushed, of course. But this one is definitely Collins.

    http://ohmyopc.blogspot.com/2011_06_01_archive.html

    Like Jonathan M. states, this site claims it’s Bobby Jones.

    https://www.deanscards.com/SearchPage.aspx?search=dave+collins&x=0&y=0

    My initial thought is it’s not Collins on the Topps card. The glasses are pretty close, though. C’s comment about the hair being airbrushed seems accurate, so that may just be throwing us, although that’s a lot of artistic license to be taking an a airbrushed card.

    Then my next thought was, did Collins always have a mustache before 1977 (real time), which would eliminate him from this card. But examining the 1977 Topps team card for the Angels, he appears clean shaven. (Assuming I have the right guy: back row, 3rd from the right.)
    http://www.chuckscards.com/1977Topps/Angels.JPG

    With that I can confidently declare: I don’t know.

  6. salvo said...

    Boy, the O-Pee-Chee/Topps cards look like two totally different people…

    Collins always seems to have sideburns in that era, and the mystery player has ZERO sideburn growth…

    I’m starting to agree that it’s not Collins…and that its IS Booby Jones… check out his ebay link and hit the “enlarge”: glasses, and blond curly hair…also a spot on the ‘76 Angels.

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/BOBBY-JONES-CALIFORNIA-ANGELS-UNSIGNED-8X10-PHOTO-/370265490088

    It really looks like it is Jones.

  7. glenn-troy ny said...

    looks a little like Paul Splittorff….my favorite Dave Collins play was when he was a Red & a base runner on 2nd base..the catcher for the opposition had a habit of a slow looping toss back to the pitcher with every pitch..dave timed it just right & stole 3rd when the catcher sure enough sent a soft toss back to the mound..the pitcher had no time to even try to throw Dave out at 3rd..i think he was a high school track star..

  8. glenn-troy ny said...

    looks a little like Paul Splittorff….my favorite Dave Collins play was when he was a Red & a base runner on 2nd base..the catcher for the opposition had a habit of a slow looping toss back to the pitcher with every pitch..dave timed it just right & stole 3rd when the catcher sure enough sent a soft toss back to the mound..the pitcher had no time to even try to throw Dave out at 3rd..i think he was a high school track star..

  9. Andrea said...

    LOL! It’s definitely NOT Dave Collins…he’s my uncle, so I can vouch for the fact that this card is incorrect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current ye@r *