Compiled by Bonnie L. Potter
volunteer of the Colchester Historical Society
With the Boston Red Sox taking home the 2018 World Series this season, it seems only fitting to highlight Colchester’s local sports hero Ray Collins in this first feature of a new historical series in The Colchester Sun. Ray Williston Collins is most famous for being a star pitcher for the Boston Red Sox 1909–1916, having been recruited professionally just three weeks after graduation from the University of Vermont where he had played both baseball and basketball.
Ray, familiarly known by some as “Collie,” quickly established himself as one of the best left- handed pitchers in the American League. In 1913-14, he won a combined 30 games for the Red Sox and his lifetime ERA is an impressive 2.51. Following a successful 1913 season, it is reported that Ray expected his $3,600 salary to increase substantially for the next season, but was disappointed when the Red Sox offered his contract at $4,500. After some back-and-forth, he eventually won a salary of $5,400. By the way, the Boston Red Sox’s current star pitcher David Price collects an annual salary of $31 million.
At age 29, Ray Collins announced his retirement from professional baseball, reportedly stating that he was discouraged by his failure to show “old-time form.” Ray was offered a prestigious position at a New York bank, but instead opted to return to the family farm here in Colchester. In the early years with no tractor, electricity or indoor plumbing, farming the hilly acreage with marshy meadows was a rough and challenging labor. He also had no automobile. Ray and wife Lillian relied on a horse-drawn wagon or sleigh for transportation into town for supplies. They farmed for approximately twenty years and raised five children. Taking in guest travelers helped pay the bills. Ray also began a successful maple sugaring operation and was known to host Sunday brunches (featuring his maple syrup on pancakes) from time to time at the farm for his former UVM classmates.
In addition to his farming endeavors, Ray Collins’ service to our state and community is certainly noteworthy. He served in the Vermont Legislature 1943-1946 on the agriculture committee and as chairman of the traffic committee. He co-founded the Burlington milk cooperative creamery that later became H.P. Hood, and served as chairman of the county agricultural stabilization board for several years. During World War II, Ray chaired the town’s draft board and the war-bond drive, and in 1953 was named Colchester’s first zoning administrator. He volunteered on the Colchester school board and the cemetery commission, and often as foreman for jury duty in court matters.
In 1960, debilitating arthritis interfered with his farm work to the extent that Ray was no longer physically able to operate the family farm. In 1969, he suffered a minor stroke. Ray Collins passed away at Fanny Allen Hospital on January 9, 1970, just short of his 83rd birthday. His body lies alongside his wife’s in the Colchester Village Cemetery. Yes, he is famous for being a star pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, but Ray Collins was much more than that for our town.
So, sometime take a ride past the old Collins Farm (next door to Elm Hill Farm) on Route 7 and consider the life and times of our multifaceted, hard-working local hero. Ray W. Collins is commemorated on the site by a Vermont Historic Marker. You can’t miss it.
Sources: – “Ray Collins,” Society for American Baseball Research, article by Tom Simon. – “A Red Sox in the Family – Ray Collins: Brother, Uncle, Granduncle”, H. W. Mott, blogspot.com. – “Ray Collins debuted with Red Sox 100 years ago” by Guy Page for The Colchester Sun, 2009. – “Then Again: Ray Collins – powerhouse pitcher for the 1910s Red Sox” – by Mark Bushnell, VT Digger.