Don Collins had the honor of joining his father for the first Baltimore
Oriole home game of the modern era when in 1954 major league
baseball came back to Baltimore. The Orioles played their first home game
at Memorial Stadium to a sell out crowd of 46,354. Don Collins sat in
Section 38, Row 9, Seat 6 and still has his ticket stub to prove it.
Don started playing organized sports with the Kenwood Athletic Club when he
was 10 years old. His father, Frank W. Collins, was a key figure in the
neighborhood youth organization helping to keep kids active in team sports.
In 1951, Don was delighted to be asked to play for Gordon's Stores 14-16 year old
baseball team alongside of future Hall of Famer, Al Kaline. Don played
first base and Al played center field. Gordon's Stores (a.k.a.
Gordon's Quality Dry Cleaning and Laundry) finished the season with a 31-5
record. The team won the Central Junior League Championship and the
Cardinal Gibbons Championship. Second baseman Ed (Butch) Houseknecht led
the team with a .446 batting average while Kaline was second with a .411
average. Don, batted .285 and recorded 133 put outs at first base.
Kaline led the team with 7 home runs and 15 stolen bases and even pitched 10
addition in 1951, Collins played American Legion ball as he joined the Waverly
Post # 164 squad. The team was undefeated until playing Al Kaline's
Westport Post # 33 team during the middle of the season. On the final
regular season game Waverly (12-1) faced Westport (11-2) again, this time for
the regular season title. The game ended due to darkness in a 7 to 7 tie.
The teams met still again in the playoffs with Waverly winning the Legion Title
3 to 2. Don preferred to play with Al Kaline rather than against him.
In 1952 Don played for Patterson Park High School, while Al played for
Southern High School.
In 1953, the Detroit Tigers signed Al
Kaline out of high school as a bonus baby and he stayed with them for his entire
career never playing a minor league game. Don Collins played
for the Red Nelson Seafood team that year and in 1954 he played for the Little
Tavern team in the Baltimore Unlimited League. He continued to play in
that Baltimore league in 1955 with the St. Elizabeth's Brotherhood. After
playing on the U. of Marylandís freshman team that year as well, Collins decided
to abandon his pipe dream to sign professionally and concentrate on academics.