The fourth man in the Red Sox pitching rotation in 1912 was a 25-year-old southpaw from Vermont named Ray Williston Collins.
Born in Colchester Vermont, this 6′ 1″, 185lb left-hander had New England roots that literally went back to the beginning and then some. He was a ninth generation descendant of Governor William Bradford. You may remember him of Plymouth Colony fame. His great, great-grandfather was Captain John Collins who ran around with a guy named Ethan Allan, he of the”Green Mountain Boys” and the American Revolution. As a matter of fact great, great Grandpa John was one of the original settlers of Burlington Vermont and old Ethan actually stayed at his house while he was building one of his own.
Three year old Ray Collins and mom.
Ray was a sensation at the University of Vermont and in amateur leagues throughout New England. He once struck out 21 batters in a game playing for Newport New Hampshire in the Interstate League. At the University of Vermont he played with Larry Gardner, who would also become a teammate with the 1912 Red Sox.
University of Vermont 1905
He joined the Red Sox in 1909 following his graduation from UVM and he had an auspicious beginning to his professional baseball career. It was July 19,1909 when he took to the mound in relief against Cleveland. His opponent was none other than Cy Young and the game also featured baseball’s first ever unassisted triple play, executed by Cleveland shortstop Neil Ball. Four days later he made his first start and two days after that he threw his first shutout beating the Tigers on three hits, on one days rest!
Ray cracked the Red Sox rotation in 1910 and in Fenway Park’s inaugural season of 1912; he was 13-8 despite being sidelined into June owed to a spike wound he received in spring training. His first win came on June 22 and for the rest of the season he was virtually invincible. By season’s end his was the number two pitcher on the staff behind “Smokey” Joe Wood and in that capacity, Ray Williston Collins was the starting pitcher in game two of the 1912 World Series, the first World Series game ever played at Fenway Park!
Ray Collins warms up October 9, 1912 at Fenway Park, Fenway’s first World Series game.
He won 19 games in 1913, 20 in 1914 and slipped to a 4-7 mark in 1915. In January of 1916 stating that he was “discouraged by his failure to show old-time form”, Ray Collins retired from professional baseball, he was 29 years old. He returned to his Vermont home and lived out his days as a dairy farmer, a patriot, an active supporter and alum of the University of Vermont and recognized by one and all as a pillar of his community.
In April of 1962, crippled with arthritis, Ray Collins joined members of the 1912 team at Fenway Park in a reunion celebrating the 50th anniversary of Fenway’s first championship team. He passed away in 1970 and was laid to rest in the Vermont soil he loved, his place in Fenway and Red Sox history evermore preserved as the man who started the first ever World Series game at “America’s Most Beloved Ball Park”!
And so it was at this time in Fenway Park history, 1912-1915, Ray’s time.