Eddie Collins & Branch Rickey
Edward Collins (Veronica O’Malley’s future spouse) was on a path toward athletic stardom. Eddie, as his friends and family called him, was tall, handsome with blonde hair and expressive blue eyes with flecks of gray. He walked with the easy grace and confidence of a young man who knew his own self-worth. He grew up in Cleveland and attended West High School where he earned a letter jacket for his enthusiastic performance on the baseball team. With a batting average of 476, Eddie was scouted by two prestigious teams.
Unknown to Eddie, Alva Bradley (President of the Cleveland Indians) heard about the wunderkind and attended a game in Eddie's senior year where he hit the winning home run against their rival team. Impressed by the young man's prowess and agility, Mr. Bradley signed Eddie to the Cleveland Indians in 1935. As a rookie player at a contracted salary of $60 per month, Eddie needed several winning seasons under his belt before eligibility for the unbelievable salary of $5,000. Unfortunately, Eddie was forced to quit the Cleveland Indians just before the season began to work a fulltime job supporting his mother, unemployed father, and three siblings.
To assuage the pain of giving up his dream job, Eddie played for minor league teams in his spare time. From 1935 to 1941, Eddie played for Chicks Blue Ribbon Grill where his quick-handed second baseman’s skill came to the attention of Branch Rickey of the St. Louis Cardinals—considered the “father” of the league farm system where minor league players perfected their abilities until they were accepted into major league teams. Branch Rickey was fully aware of star athletes in the minor leagues and would later make his then-controversial decision to hire Jackie Robinson. (Both Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.) In modern cinema, the movie “42” features Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford as Branch Ricky.
On February 8, 1941, Eddie received a letter from the St. Louis National Baseball Club with an invitation to attend the Cardinals spring camp in Albany, Georgia on Monday, March 14, 1941. All travel expenses would be paid by the ballclub and, if they deemed his ability worthy of the Cardinals, he would be offered a contract. The letter was signed by Albert L. Finch for the Cardinals System. The only thing required of Eddie was to accept their offer and complete a standard form outlining his employment and athletic statistics. Although the brass ring was finally in his grasp, Eddie was forced to abandon his dream to support his family.