The Post-Journal

Louie Collins, Dean Of Amateur Baseball, Recalls Storied Era In Jamestown Sports

The basketball Spirals of Jamestown were scheduled at St. Bonaventure one night in the long ago and being indentified as another man nearly got Louie Collins killed. Louie was talking about his years as an organizer and official of the Chautauqua County Baseball Association and the chatter just naturally drifted around to the old days when Jamestown was blessed with an abundance of fine adult athletes who played with fierce pride simply for the joy of combat."Pat Riley, a big, rough fellow, was our star in those days," Louie recounted. "Pat was terrific. He could score from any angle, drive like a trucker and take care of himself in the roughest of company. Believe you me, basketball was rough in those days, too, just about anything went."

"Well, Pat came down sick and did not make the trip to St. Bona. The Olean players, of course, had heard a lot about Pat but didn't know him by sight. Some joker pointed me out as Pat Riley, whom the Bona players had apparently planned to gang up on. I was about half Pat's size but that didn't make any difference. Man, what a going over they gave me! I never came out of a basketball game as lame and battered in my life."

Asked why he has remained more or less at the helm of the Chautauqua County Baseball Association for nearly half a century - 47 years to be exact - without ever accepting the presidency, Louie laughed, "Someone had to do the work. I don't mean it the way it sounds. As secretary I was in position to get out and hustle, and believe me, it has taken a lot of it."

Now it appears Louie is going to get some long overdue recognition outside of his home area, for the National Non-Pro Congress has asked for information around which to build a story about the local sports enthusiast.

The league was formed in 1921, Louie recalled, and charter members were Stockton, Cassadaga, Kennedy, Sinclairville, Ashville, and Cherry Creek. "The league filled a need since it was the only one of its kind in the area," he explained. "It went up to eight teams, later to sixteen and during the war back to six. After the war, we had two leagues for a time. We have managed to keep going, but it is getting tougher and tougher and in recent years we got by only because of the generous assistance of local and area merchants and industrial plants."

Collins was active in organizing the Muny Baseball Leagues. At one time, the Class AA circuit boasted six teams, Class A eight clubs and Classes B, C and D each had eight teams. Always Louie served as secretary under such commissioners as Judge Allen Bargar, George Maltby, George Dodd, Waite Forsyth and Herb Carlson to name a few. In addition to his grueling baseball supervisory position, Louie carried on his business as owner of Collins Sport Shop for 40 years.

The basketball Spirals and the football All-Jamestown were powers locally in those days. The Spirals during some of their greatest seasons were built around Collins, Riley, Carl Munson, Bert Hall, Ralph Johnson, Ralph Thomas and Clarence Carling. "We played such teams as the Buffalo Germans, various New York City clubs and one time the Oswego All-Stars started a Western tour. They played here and we beat them 33-11, so they cancelled their trip and went back home."

"We had quite a record," Collins went on. "We beat such teams as the Lackawanna Steelers, Cleveland Panthers and Tonawanda Bears. If I recall right, we went either five or six years at one stretch without being scored on. Then an all-Indian club from Red House or somewhere on the reservation came to Jamestown and scored on us at the old Cricket Grounds where Marlin-Rockwell is now located. We made them pay, though, because we beat them 66 to 6."

Louie was always the "good little man" on a squad of "good big men" composed in part by Riley, Jerry Moynihan, Pete Trefft, Git Grenquist, Cliff and Ray Sharp, Eric Oberg, Elmer Dickson, Harmony Lindstrom, Baldy Howard, Carl Munson and Hank Larson.

"Life was a little slower then," Louie reminisced. "There was no television and little other recreation other than the physical kind, so we played everything there was to play and sometimes I think we had more fun than the young men do now with all the modern recreational conveniences."

Collins' enthusiasm for the county baseball association has never waned. Now sanctioned by the National Non-Pro Congress, he expects its 48th campaign will get under way next May after the usual organizational headaches. "But I don't mind," he smiled. "I've gotten a lot of headaches and a lot of fun out of sports in more than 50 years and I don't expect to lose interest now."

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