Simply Baseball Notebook's Forgotten In Time

Ed Delahanty

Hilton Smith
Larry Doby
Seattle Pilots
1994 Expos
Ray Chapman
Flashes in the Pan
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St. Louis Browns
Wally Pipp
Rocky Colavito
Dom DiMaggio
Ellis Valentine
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Stuart 'Slim' Jones
Billy Hamilton
Ed Delahanty
Eddie Waitkus
George Davis
Riggs Stephenson
1920 White Sox
Luke Easter
Herb Washington
Eddie Robinson
Bobby Mathews
Jimmy Ryan
A.G. Spalding
"Dummy" Hoy
Albert Belle
Jack Quinn
Ken Williams
Al Oliver
Jack Taylor
Fred Lindstrom
Jim Thorpe


* Hall of Fame Photo *

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.

Delahanty 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.

Because 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.

Delahanty's 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


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