|* Hall of Fame
Philadelphia Quakers 1888-89
Cleveland Infants 1890
Philadelphia Phillies 1891-1901
Washington Senators 1902-03
"Men who met Ed Delahanty had to admit he was a handsome fellow, although
there was an air about him that indicated he was a roughneck at heart and no man to temper with. He had that wide-eyed,
half-smiling, ready-for-anything look that is characteristic of a certain type of Irishman. He had a towering impatience,
too, and a taste for liquor and excitement. He created plenty of excitement for opponents and spectators when he laid
his tremendous bat against a pitch."
-Robert Smith in "Baseball", circa 1947.
The story of Ed
Delahanty is one of the most intriguing in baseball history. At peace on the diamond, Delahanty became the premier slugger
of the 1890s. His personal life, however, swirled in a constant state of turmoil. In the end Delahanty could not
control his demons and died mysteriously at age 35.
Edward James Delahanty was born in Cleveland, OH on October 30,
1867. The oldest of seven children, Ed was the first of five Delahanty brothers to play professional baseball.
He began his pro career in 1887 with Mansfield of the Ohio State League and hit .355. After a .408 start with Wheeling
of the Tri-State League in 1888, the National League's Philadelphia Phillies bought Delahanty's contract for $1,500.
struggled during his first year in Philly. Playing mostly second base, the 21 year old committed 47 errors in 74 games
and hit a meager .228. He rebounded to hit .293 in 56 games in 1889, and then jumped to Cleveland of the newly formed
Players league in 1890.
Delahanty returned to the Phillies in 1891 and by 1893, he blossomed into a star. The
6-1, 170 pound slugger finished third in the NL in average (.368), first in home runs (19), and first in RBI (146) that season.
He dominated the league for the remainder of the decade.
Teamed up in the outfield with future Hall of Famers Billy
Hamilton and Sam Thompson, "Big Ed" hit over .300 twelve straight season (including three .400+ seasons). Delahanty
etched his name into the history books on July 13, 1896 when he became the second man in baseball history to hit four home
runs in one game (all were inside the park).
In 1902, Delahanty jumped to the Washington Senators of the newly formed
American League. While his production on the field remained stellar ( a .376 average in 1902), personal problems began to
destroy his life. Already a heavy drinker, Delahanty became steeped in debt and would often threaten to commit suicide
in hopes that a teammate or friend would bail him out. His mother was even known to follow him on road trips to ensure
that he did not inflict harm on himself.
After flirting with jumping back to NL with the New York Giants in the winter
of 1902, Delahanty returned to the Senators and was hitting .333 after 42 games. On July 2, 1903, he received word that
teammate George Davis had jumped to New York, Delahanty was set to join him there. The Senators were in Detroit at the
time, and the disgruntled outfielder hopped on an east bound trained destined for New York.
On that fateful trip,
Delahanty drank heavily and acted erratically. His condition deteriorated to the point that he reportedly pulled a women
out of her berth by the ankles and began threatening passengers while brandishing a straight razor.
The fearful passengers
looked to conductor John Cole for protection. When it became apparent that there was no reasoning with Delahanty, Cole
ejected him from the train near a bridge on the Canadian side of the Niagara River.
"And don't make any trouble,"
Cole reportedly told Delahanty following his dismissal. "You are still in Canada."
"I don't care whether I'm in Canada
or dead," Delahanty reportedly replied.
After that statement Delahanty began walking across the bridge, which led
to Buffalo, NY. Meanwhile, night watchman Sam Kingston was making his rounds when he spotted a man on the bridge leaning
against a pillar. Kingston approached the man and then, according to his story, shined a lantern in Delahanty's face,
which caused the baseball star to threaten him. Kingston then realized the man was intoxicated and made an attempt to
subdue him. At some point thereafter, Delahanty fell into the river to his death.
Inexplicably, Kingston did
not report the incident until the next morning. He simply picked up Delahanty's hat off the tracks and walked away.
Even after the incident was reported, no one made the connection that it was Delahanty that had been involved.
of his heavy drinking, Delahanty would often disappear for days. Neither the Senators nor his estranged wife, Norine,
were all that concerned about his whereabouts. The connection was finally made days later when an unclaimed bag at the
Buffalo train depot was discovered containing a pair of high top baseball cleats and a Senator's pass book.
body turned up on July 9, found by the operator of a tour boat at the base of Niagara Falls. Barely recognizable, the
corpse had been stripped of its clothing and badly battered. Delahanty's brother Frank believed foul play had been involved
because Ed's tie had remained in place, but his diamond tie pin and rings were gone. When the body of a local man was
found in the same area a short time later without the $1,500 he had been carrying, fuel was added to Frank's speculation.
Delahanty's death was officially ruled an accident, mainly because few believed the 70 year old Kingston would have
been able to overpower the younger, stronger Delahanty even in a drunken state.
Ed Delahanty died with a .346 career
batting average, fifth all time. "Big Ed" led his league in slugging percentage and doubles five times, RBIs three times,
home runs twice, and steals once. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1945 by the Veterans Committee with several
of his nineteenth century contemporaries.
It has been nearly one hundred years since Ed Delahanty's death, but his
legend lives on.
-David Zingler, May 2003
Delahanty @ Baseball-Reference.com
Simply Baseball Notebook
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