Carlos Beltran has a chance this year to break one of the longest-lasting records in Cardinals history.
With 18 home runs, Beltran is a threat to top the Cardinals’ single-season record for homers by a switch-hitter, a mark established by Rip Collins, with 35, for the 1934 World Series championship team.
(Updated on Sept. 30: Beltran has 32 home runs.)
Cardinals switch-hitters with the most single-season home runs:
_ Rip Collins, 35 homers, 1934
_ Carlos Beltran, 32, 2012
_ Lance Berkman, 31, 2011
_ Ted Simmons, 26, 1979
_ Mark Whiten, 25, 1993
(This post has been updated to delete an erroneous reference to Fernando Tatis. He batted right-handed.)
James “Rip” Collins, a 5-foot-9 first baseman, played for the Cardinals from 1931-36 before being traded to the Cubs. He hit better than .300 in four of his nine big-league seasons and played in three World Series (for the Cardinals in 1931 and ’34 and for the Cubs in 1938.)
Collins was the first switch-hitter to top the 30-homer mark in the big leagues. His 35 home runs in 1934 tied him with Mel Ott of the Giants for the National League lead. Collins remains the only Cardinals switch-hitter to lead the NL in homers in a season.
After Collins, no other NL switch-hitter achieved a 30-homer season until the Dodgers’ Reggie Smith hit 32 in 1977. It took 53 years for a NL switch-hitter to break Collins’ league record of 35 homers in a season. Howard Johnson of the Mets did it with 36 homers in 1987. (The underrated Johnson also hit 36 in 1989 and 38 in 1991 for the Mets.)
The home run barrage was part of a career year for Collins in 1934. His 128 RBI were second in the NL to Ott’s 135. His .333 batting average tied for fourth in the NL. Collins led the league in both slugging percentage (.615) and total bases (369.) He collected 200 hits, including 40 doubles and 12 triples.
Collins was described by Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as a “choked-grip longball batter (who) hit for more distance left-handed but he stroked the ball better and for higher average right-handed.”
Batting left-handed, Collins hit 30 of his 35 homers in 1934 against right-handers.
One of three starters on the 1934 Cardinals who switch-hit (second baseman Frank Frisch and right fielder Jack Rothrock were the others,) Collins primarily batted fifth in the order (behind cleanup batter and left fielder Joe Medwick.)
Included in his top performances that year:
_ On June 2, 1934, in the first game of a doubleheader at Pittsburgh, Collins had a triple, two home runs and seven RBI in the Cardinals’ 13-4 victory over the Pirates. Boxscore
_ Collins went 5-for-5 against the Giants on July 23, 1934, in the Cardinals’ 6-5 victory at New York. Boxscore
_ In the 1934 World Series, Collins hit .367 (11-for-30) in helping the Cardinals defeat the Tigers in seven games.
Clever, with a devilish sense of humor, Collins fit in well with the Gashouse Gang Cardinals of the 1930s. A 1975 article in Baseball Digest detailed one notorious incident:
A carefree refugee from the Pennsylvania coal mines, Rip Collins was reportedly the instigator of one unforgettable prank pulled off by the Cardinals at a hotel in Philadelphia where the club stayed.
The Ripper had noticed ladders, paint buckets, white overalls and other paraphernalia of painters in a corner of the service area of the hotel. He rounded up Dizzy Dean, Heinie Schuble and Billy DeLancey. They donned the overalls, took the equipment into a busy dining room and began painting the walls and ceiling, splattering paint on the customers, shouting instructions to one another ala the Marx brothers and promoting general chaos.
It took all of general manager Branch Rickey’s persuasive powers to prevent the hotel management from evicting the entire ballclub immediately.
“It was great until the cops showed up,” said Collins.
“We were crazy, but we could afford to be with the outfit we had.”