40,0000 days since Ed Delahanty’s death

40,000 days ago, baseball had one of its most horrible moments. It wasn’t an in-game issue but an off-the-field death.

The date was July 2, 1903. You may have heard of that date because it’s the title of a book, a book about the death of turn-of-the-century star Ed Delahanty.

In his prime, Big Ed Delahanty was one of the game’s greatest sluggers. He led the league in homers twice, RBIs thrice, and doubles five times. He could also hit, with a batting title and multiple .400 seasons.

In 1903, he was still an excellent hitter, but at age 35 he was into his decline. To that point in the season, Delahanty had just one homer in 42 games, though with a .330 average.

He also had financial troubles. A few weeks earlier, he tried to sell some of his teammates’ jewelry and diamonds to a dealer in Washington, D.C. Yeah, that’s a sign you have some serious financial problems—and moral problems, too.

Delahanty’s slide continued. He felt depressed and talked of suicide. He went on a drinking spree. Suffering alcohol-induced delirium, he pulled out a large knife and threatened to kill himself.

That was all in late June. At the end of the month, the club made him sign a will-be-good pledge. They were still giving him a chance, but he was running out of them.

However, on July 1, just one day after pledging to be good, Delahanty got drunk.

The next day was his last. It was a travel day for the squad, and they were on a train heading through upstate New York. Delahanty, half out of his mind, chases teammate Highball Wilson around the train with a knife.

That was it. Delahanty’s poor behavior earned him an ejection from the train at 10:45 PM. He was in the Niagara Falls region at the time and tried to walk across the International Bridge to Canada. A security guard told him to go somewhere else because he wasn’t supposed to be there. Surly and agitated, Delahanty said, “I don’t care whether I’m in Canada or dead.”

He never made it to Canada. What happened isn’t exactly clear. What is clear is that he died, falling into the water, never to be seen again. Suicide? That’s the most likely case. He was depressed, distraught, talking about death, and in the right place for it. Accident? He could have slipped since he was badly drunk. There were stories that maybe some shady fellows attacked and killed him, disposing of his body in the Falls, but that’s not likely.

Mostly likely, Delahanty committed suicide. However it went down, Delahanty died on that bridge 40,000 days ago.

Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary.” The better ones are in bold if you’d rather just skim through things.

Day-versaries

1,000 days since David Murphy gets on base via catcher’s interference twice in one game. This is something that has happened only six times since 1920.

2,000 days since the A’s trade Jason Kendall to the Cubs.

3,000 days since Curt Schilling defeats the Yankees in the Bloody Sock game in Game Four of the 2004 ALCS. The series is now tied, three games apiece.

5,000 days since the Brewers sign free agent pitcher Hideo Nomo.

5,000 days since an A’s loss puts Art Howe 83 games under .500 (618-701), his low point. He equals this level two games later but is never lower.

5,000 days since Roy Halladay has his worst start ever: Game Score –7. His line: 2.1 IP, 9 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 3 BB, and 1 K. He allows his first grand slam, too.

6,000 days since Derek Jeter hits one of his most memorable homers. It’s not only an inside-the-park homer, but what is still his only extra-inning home run. He dashes around the bases in the top of the 10th.

Anniversaries

1864 Ban Johnson, founder of the American League, is born

1864 Parisian Bob Caruthers, star pitcher in the 1880s/90s, is born.

1870 Bill Dahlen, shortstop who is arguably the best player ignored by Cooperstown, is born.

1885 Art Fletcher, Deadball Era shortstop, is born.

1890 Benny Kauff is born. He’ll become a Federal League star who after 1920 will be banned from baseball for gambling on games.

1890 The Boston Braves purchase super-fielding shortstop Herman Long from the Kansas City Cowboys for at least $5,000.

1898 Riggs Stephenson, good hitting NL outfielder from the 1920s/30s, is born.

1901 Luke Sewell is born. He’ll catch in the AL for 20 seasons due to his defensive ability.

1906 Giants manager John McGraw opens a billiard parlor at 34th Street and Broadway.

1915 The collapsing Federal League files an antitrust lawsuit against baseball.

1915 Nap Lajoie rejoins the A’s, the team he left over a decade before.

1916 The National League approves the sale of the Cubs to Charles H. Weegham for $500,000. A minority shareholder putting up $50,000 of the purchase is William Wrigley, whose family will stay with the team until 1981.

1918 Jack Kramer, star pitcher for the 1940s Browns, is born. He leads the league in winning percentage in 1948 at .783 (18-5).

1920 Red Sox owner Harry Frazee attempts to explain why he sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees. He tells the public that Ruth was selfish and inconsiderate, becoming a “one-man team.”

1927 Judge Landis begins a three-day hearing to determine if the Tigers threw a four-game series to the White Sox in 1917.

1931 Mrs. Lucille Thomas becomes the first woman to buy a professional baseball team, the Class-A Topeka Senators.

1934 A four-alarm fire destroys much of the refurbishing in Fenway Park. It’ll be ready by Opening Day anyway.

1934 The Yankees release longtime star pitcher Herb Pennock.

1935 Earl Battey is born. He’ll become an All-Star catcher.

1943 Judge Landis and baseball owners have an emergency meeting to grapple with recent changes the government has required of the game due to wartime demands. Spring training will be closer to home and later in the year. This will save on fuel needed for the war front.

1946 The Giants purchase Walker Cooper from the Cardinals for $175,000.

1948 Charlie Hough is born. He’ll win over 200 games by throwing the knuckler.

1953 Jim Gantner, longtime Brewer second baseman, is born. He’ll be part of the best infield of the decade alongside Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, and Cecil Cooper.

1954 Hall of Fame defensive specialist Rabbit Maranville dies at age 62.

1957 Jackie Robinson announces his retirement.

1958 Ron Kittle is born. He’ll win Rookie of the Year honors with the 1983 White Sox.

1961 Fred Luderus dies at age 75. He had a decent-sized consecutive-games-played streak in the 1910s when he played for the Phillies.

1962 Danny Jackson, two-time All Star pitcher, is born.

1963 Jeff Fassero, long-lasting pitcher, is born.

1963 Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby dies at age 66.

1965 James M. Johnston and James Lemon purchase the remaining 40 percent of the Washington Senators to get complete control of the team.

1975 Don Wilson, Astros pitcher, dies at age 29. It’s a bit more ghastly than that. He dies in his closed garage from car fumes. The fumes get in the house and kill his son. The fumes also put his wife and daughter in the hospital with a coma. His death is ruled an accident.

1980 The Royals sign free agent Tom Candiotti.

1984 The Yankees sign free agent pitcher and future Hall of Famer Phil Niekro.

1987 Dale Mitchell dies at age 65. He’s most famous for being the last out in Don Larsen’s perfect game. He’s also a great hitter who had back-to-back 200-hit seasons in 1948-49.

1988 Don Sutton signs with the Dodgers.

1989 MLB announces a $400 million deal with ESPN.

1994 The Royals trade Kevin McReynolds to the Mets for Vince Coleman and cash.

1995 According to union head Donald Fehr, all 835 unsigned players are now free agents as the owners have unilaterally changed the uniform contract.

1997 Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield is hit by a car while jogging. He’s okay, though, with just bruises.

1999 George Steinbrenner apologizes to Yogi Berra for his 1985 managerial firing.

2001 Canadian Labatt Brewing Company announces it’s ending a 15-year sponsorship deal with the Montreal Expos.

2001 The Yankees sign amateur free agent Robinson Cano.

2001 The Cardinals sign free agent Bobby Bonilla for his final season in the big leagues.

2004 Pete Rose admits that he bet on baseball, including the Reds while he managed them.

2004 Former Mets star reliever Tug McGraw dies at age 59.

2005 The Giants signed free agent leftfielder Moises Alou.

2009 The Rays sign free agent hitter Pat Burrell.

2010 The Braves sign free agent third baseman Troy Glaus.

2010 300-game-winner Randy Johnson announces his retirement.

2010 The Cardinals sign Matt Holliday as a free agent.

2011 The Rangers sign Adrian Beltre as their third baseman.

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Comments

  1. Stephen Jaros said...

    Just discovered this site…excellent baseball history info…my uncle was Charles “Red” Ruffing…will continue to access this site…thanks for your efforts…SteveJ.

  2. Dennis Bedard said...

    The big question here is the derivation of the nickname “Highball”. If it refers to his pitching or hitting proclivity, fine.  But if it is a drinking monikor, it says a lot about the culture of baseball at the turn of the century.

  3. Chris Waters said...

    Bill James said some unkind judgmental things as James tend to do with individuals that he seems to have a distaste for ( Rogers Hornsby, Ty Cobb, etc. ) about Delahanty’s death, but said very little or nothing about the suicidal implications. Thank you for bringing this up!

  4. AndrewJ said...

    Delahanty was trying to return to the National League in the summer of 1903, and latch on with the New York Giants. Apparently those plans fell through just before his death.

  5. Paul E said...

    According to former major-league pitcher and longtime umpire Bill Dineen, the player who reminded him most of Delahanty at the bat and in the field was Joe DiMaggio. He was truly amazed at the striking similarity.

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