Minor League Baseball is known for its rich history, dating back more than 100 years. While much has been written about the best teams and top players who have graced the Minors, there remain many stories either untold or largely forgotten. Each week, MiLB.com will attempt to fill that gap
Minor League Baseball is known for its rich history, dating back more than 100 years. While much has been written about the best teams and top players who have graced the Minors, there remain many stories either untold or largely forgotten. Each week, MiLB.com will attempt to fill that gap and explore these historical oddities in our "Cracked Bats" feature. Know of any stories to be considered for this feature in the future? Send an email and let us know.
Dan Collier reached the pinnacle of his baseball career in 1997, equaling a Minor League record while arriving on the threshold of a career in the Major Leagues. The Alabama native, however, never played professional baseball again following that year, let alone approach the lofty heights he did that summer in the Texas League.
Collier was in his seventh Minor League season in 1997, his first with the Texas organization after spending the previous six years with the Red Sox. The Rangers had signed him away from Boston and he responded by reaching career highs in home runs (26) and RBIs (79) with Double-A Tulsa. Included in that career season was a weeklong stretch in June during which Collier connected for a homer in seven consecutive games, equaling a mark shared by three others.
According to The Minor League Baseball Encyclopedia, Norman Munn accomplished the feat in 1912 while playing for Richmond in the Bluegrass League. John Romano equaled the mark in 1955 while playing for Waterloo in the Three-I League. Claude Westmoreland made it a trio in 1977, when he hit homers in seven consecutive games for Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League.
Nashville's Laynce Nix and Columbus' Ryan Royster each made August runs at the record this year, connecting for homers in six consecutive games in the Pacific Coast and South Atlantic leagues, respectively. But they both fell one game short of joining the exclusive group of which Collier is a proud member. The Major League record is eight consecutive games shared by Dale Long, Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey Jr.
"It's a big deal to me," Collier said. "Even though it's kind of like being Mr. Irrelevant, like being the last pick in the NFL draft or something, you still did it. It's a Minor League record even though very little was made of it anywhere. Looking back on it, I am very proud of it from a personal standpoint, even though it's not something that's in the limelight very often."
While Collier's accomplishment might not be in the limelight, it's certainly worthy of attention. He began his streak at Shreveport's Fair Grounds Field, which was more of a pitchers' park than a hitters' haven. Collier had been coming off a stretch in which he was 3-for-35, but the Louisiana air apparently rejuvenated him because he connected for homers in three games there, all of which were seven-inning affairs.
Collier returned to Drillers Stadium and belted homers in four more games to equal the record. On four occasions during the streak, he went yard in his final at-bat. The right-handed hitter also sent a pair of long balls over the center field fence and two more over the fence in right-center, which is the deepest part of the ballpark.
"To tell you the truth, I really remember the sixth home run," Collier said. "We were at our park and the wind was blowing in about 10 or 15 mph. I thought there was no way anyone was hitting one out that day. But the guy hung me a slider and I hit it over the scoreboard in right-center. I don't know that I ever hit many balls like that. I didn't think a ball would travel under circumstances like that.
"I read an article in the Tulsa paper just a few weeks ago about how rarely that home run is hit since they've had that park. I didn't know much about the record at the time. The previous league record was five in a row, and it wasn't a big deal until I hit another homer. The night I broke the [league] record, the stands were packed."
Collier hit a ball to the warning track in the eighth game, but that's as close he came to equaling the all-time record of eight games.
One of the reasons Collier's accomplishment probably isn't celebrated as much as it could be is the fact that he was forced into retirement that winter after unsuccessful shoulder surgery. He had a slight tear in his labrum, so he and the Rangers opted to have it repaired. Following the surgery, though, he experienced so much discomfort that he wasn't able to throw a baseball for two years, let alone swing a bat.
Collier attempted to play again during the spring of 1998 but was unable to throw. He had a thermal shrink wrap put on the socket in his shoulder -- a procedure that is no longer performed -- and it constricted his shoulder to such a degree that he was left unable to throw.
"I felt like I always had the talent to be in the Major Leagues," he said. "Sometimes I wish I didn't try to have the shoulder fixed. A couple of years went by and I still couldn't throw. It's OK now, but it's still real tight.
"The thermal shrink was a new procedure at the time. It was supposed to shrink the capsule and stabilize the shoulder. But it proved to be too much, and they cut off some of the bone in my shoulder. It took forever to get over. I thought they should have just cleaned up my labrum and I could have gone back to business, but it ended my career. I was in a good position after that year because the Rangers were real high on me, but I couldn't come back from the surgery."
Collier returned to Alabama, where he went into his family's oil distribution business. He's currently working on getting his MBA, but occasionally he'll think about his "other" career and even think about "The Streak."
"At the time, I was looking forward to what the future would hold," he said. "I wanted to be in the Major Leagues. I was just hoping this would be a brick in the road, albeit a nice brick."
Kevin T. Czerwinski is a reporter for MiLB.com.