Phil Collier; Hall of Fame San Diego Sportswriter

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Phil Collier, a San Diego sportswriter inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame a decade ago, has died at the age of 75.

Collier died Saturday in his San Diego home of complications of prostate cancer that was diagnosed in 1985.

A bylined writer for 46 years, Collier joined the San Diego Union in 1953, covering the Padres entry in the Pacific Coast League until 1958. When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles that year, Collier covered them. Three years later he added the Angels to his beat, covering both teams for the Union, Associated Press and the Sporting News.

Collier covered the major leagues' San Diego Padres from their inception in 1969 until the late 1980s, when he became a national baseball writer. After the Union merged with the San Diego Tribune in 1992, he continued that job until 1996, and then wrote a weekly column for the Union-Tribune through the end of the 1999 season.

Collier's biggest scoop was reporting that Dodger pitcher Sandy Koufax was retiring at the peak of his career in 1966.

Collier said Koufax had told him in 1965 that he planned to quit after one more season because of arthritis in his left elbow.

"But he asked me not to say anything and gave me his word that when the time came, he'd let me know first," Collier said after his own retirement. "One of the proudest things in my career was that we both kept our word."

In December 1990, the Baseball Writers Assn. of America selected him as the recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, created in 1962 in honor of the longtime publisher of the Sporting News. The award confers inclusion in the writer's wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Asked in the early 1990s what he would write in his autobiography, Collier told The Times: "Probably, 'No one ever enjoyed a profession more.' "

Collier is survived by his wife, Ruth, three children, three stepchildren, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Services are pending.

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