Class of 1933
Every town with a self-respecting high school sports program had its heroes back in the early and mid-20th century. After all, there weren’t as many other activities for teens in those days.
In New Milford, Fred Collins was the guy everyone talked about way back when… they recounted tales of his basketball and baseball exploits, and the older folks glowed as they resurrected memories of seeing the player called “Lefty” in action.
Documentation of Fred’s three years as a varsity basketball player for NMHS and four seasons of baseball bear out his reputation as a local legend.
Playing their home basketball games during the 1930-31 season on the tiny court on the top level of the town hall, a veteran NMHS boys’ quintet happily utilized the talents of a sophomore named Fred Collins to post a 13-2 regular-season record and capture the Housatonic Valley Schoolmen’s League championship.
Fred cracked the starting lineup in mid-season and helped lift the local ‘5’ into its first state tournament. Once in the post-season, NMHS outplayed Hand of Madison, 27-16, and Terryville, 37-33, to advance to the state class C-D title game
Killingly spoiled the local quintet’s championship dream, 27-11, but the tournament experience whetted the desire of Fred Collins for more.
His junior season produced a 16-4 record for the NMHS boys, featuring another HVSL title. With home games now being played at the new high school’s gym along East Street, Fred’s regular-season highlight was a probably school record, 26-point performance during a 50-32 victory over Bethel on Dec. 11, 1931.
Qualifying for the state class C-D tournament as the second seed, Fred and Co. beat Newtown, 31-25, in the state quarterfinals as “Lefty” poured in 10 points. Top-seeded New Canaan then ended NMHS’ title march in the semifinals, 25-19.
Fred’s senior basketball season in 1932-33 provided a smooth ride to another HVSL championship, the third in his three varsity seasons. NMHS was 15-2 during the regular season, including a 66-18 thrashing of Bethel, a mismatch which marked the locals’ school record for most points in a game.
Again seeded second in the state class C-D tournament, NMHS bowed out quietly, this time via a 35-17 quarterfinal defeat to Litchfield. That defeat closed the books on Fred’s illustrious high school basketball career.
For his three hardcourt seasons, Fred and his teammates were 44-8 in the regular season and winners of three consecutive HVSL titles.
Rivals who dared to hope for better results against Fred Collins in baseball hoped in futility. Starting in the spring of 1930, “Lefty” proved NMHS’ key player at first base, as a pitcher and with his potent bat as his team rolled to a 58-5-1 ledger and four straight HVSL championships.
Fred was the starting first baseman from the beginning of his freshman year while his role as a pitcher increased throughout his NMHS career. The local ‘9,’ playing their games at Young’s Field, posted an overall 18-2-1 record in 1930.
Among his sophomore highlights were his season-opening, 7-1 mound victory over Ridgefield on April 24 as he struck out 13 Tigers batters; a no-hitter through eight innings vs. Bethel on May 1, and an 11-1 win over Ridgefield on May 19.
By sophomore season’s end, Fred had a 10-0 pitching record for the 14-0 NMHS diamond crew.
The 1932 baseball season produced a 13-2 record for NMHS and yet another HVSL banner. Fred’s pitching again played a significant role.
Among his memorable mound efforts were a nine-strikeout, 9-0 win over Ridgefield on April 22; a 17-strikeout, 4-2 win over neighboring Washington; a stunning 23-strikeout, 5-1 victory over Bethel; and finally a 13-strikeout, 3-2 win over Ridgefield, including three strikeouts in the ninth inning of the HVSL league playoff game.
Fred proved again as a senior to be a formidable pitcher, and added even more punch with his bat than in previous diamond campaigns. The versatile senior’s contributions were central to NMHS’ 13-1 record and a fourth straight HVSL championship.
The locals’ only defeat was a 4-3 verdict with Kent School, in spite of Fred’s seven-strikeout hurling and two-run home run and double at the plate.
Other season highlights were Fred’s four hits during a 12-6 win over Bethel; his four-hit pitching during a 2-1 win over Salisbury School; and, in Fred’s NMHS athletic finale, a 7-1 pitching gem in the HVSL playoff win over Newtown.
In all, for his seven varsity seasons of basketball and baseball, Fred helped NMHS teams build a 102-13-1 record and earn seven HVSL titles.
Fred Collins didn’t need to do anything else athletically to assure his place in New Milford sports annals, but he did anyway…
“Lefty” went on to excel in both sports at Providence College, serving as captain for Friar basketball and baseball in his senior year, and later was inducted into Providence’s baseball Hall of Fame.
The NMHS graduate then signed on with the New York Yankees’ baseball organization, showing enough promise by 1939 to be considered a possible successor as Yankees first baseman to Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig. Ultimately, after suffering a serious injury that doomed his major league dream, Fred played and managed for many years in the Yanks’ minor league system.